Again, my camera wasn't working properly and I didn't have any way of recording voice clips, so I wasn't really able to get much on camera. However, I did experience a lot in my first day at the Combine.
First off, I got to talk to some of the players at the combine. I did get to talk to the top ranked European skater, Adam Larsson. I basically apologized for the awkwardness yesterday- he seemed okay with it. I also got to talk to a pair of Sea Dogs- Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips. I talked to Phillips about his awesome mullet. He told me it was a team thing, and it was inspired by Patrick Kane. I talked to Jurco about a story that my friend Cam Charron (the same Cam Charron from Nucks Misconduct, SBNation's Canucks blog) told me about- turns out Jurco is a pretty huge fan of Patrik Elias. I also got to talk to two other prospects- but i'll get to that later. I also got to meet a pair of great writers- the man who brought ILWT to SBN, James Mirtle and draft expert Kirk Luedeke. I also saw a lot of other people as well- some of the TSN insiders like Bob Mckenzie (although I didn't talk to him), Caps GM George McPhee and who I believe was Bruce Boudreau (I thought it was Barry Trotz at first- but I think because McPhee was there it made more sense that Boudreau would've come along).
From the media tables, I didn't really get an up close and personal look at some of the prospects like the NHL scouts did, but I was able to see what was going on. I enjoyed how they yelled and screamed at the players during the tests. The tests I was able to see was mainly the tests involving the stationary bikes like VO2 Max. While I wasn't able to see every test and count every action by each player, the NHL collected the 10 best scores from each and put it up on centralscouting.nhl.com for us to view. They had the individual scores, but I wasn't able to jot down every one of them just because of time constraints as well as some note taking.
Players who surprised and impressed me
Phillip Danault (LW- Victoriaville, CSS Ranking- 21st overall, North American Skaters)
Personally, I didn't hear alot about Danault before the combine. I ran into him at the combine- the fact that he waived at me and acknowledged me was kinda cool, so I looked into him. His numbers do suggest he's an offensive minded forward. His test results were pretty good- he's got decent leg strength. After the combine I visited Bruins draft watch to read what Kirk had to say about Danault.
Still, he's been pretty productive with 23 goals and 66 points this season. He's kind of like the little engine that could and if he goes in the top-60 picks, then you'll have your answer as to whether an NHL team thinks he projects as a legitimate pro. If he slips, then the wildcard element of this prospect will be more in play. His skating, hands and creativity are impressive, so don't bet against this guy.
Danault did do quite well for himself at the combine- he got in on the top 10 with VO2 max scores and had some good results with the leg strength tests. Personally I think this one had to do more out of curiosity to who he was (the players don't have names on the back of their shirts- you have to remember their numbers), but I guess his niceness paid off in making me notice him.
Duncan Siemens (D-Saskatoon, CSS Ranking- 10th overall, North American Skaters)
Siemens was someone I actually wanted to look at more in-depth, mainly because he seems like an interesting prospect to me. However, when it was his turn on the stationary bikes tox or power output, he surprised me after getting winded. While I did have some concerns about Siemens and conditioning afterwards, I think maybe he was pushing himself to do well- he was ranked in the top 10 scores in several different categories including Peak and Mean power output. After seeing Siemens' scores, I felt he might be a bit of a competitor- he'll push himself to do better than the rest.
However, Tom Gulitti posted an interesting note on Fire and Ice- the test Siemens did was probably one of the toughest tests to perform at the combine. Either way, Siemens got my attention.
Mark McNeil (C- Prince Albert, CSS Ranking- 14th overall, North American Skaters)
When I saw this guy in the combine, he looked incredibly ripped. Of course, his looks were one thing, but the guy's results pretty much impressed me- he showed off his strength by being one of three prospects to perform 13 straight 150 lb bench press. He was tops at push-up strength and push strength as well. He's got pretty good hand strength as well.
The player who made the best impression
Rocco Grimaldi (C- USA U18)
I'm giving this to Grimaldi for a few reasons. From what i've heard about him, he seemed like a heart and soul kind of guy like Martin St. Louis, a small guy who's one of the best in the league. One of the two areas that he impressed me in was his physical ability- while he wasn't the biggest guy there he made up for it in pound for pound rates.
However, Grimaldi's personality is what I enjoyed. After his tests, Grimaldi was hanging out with Jamieson Oleksiak, the 6'7 giant out of Northeastern. Grimaldi was able to make quite a few jokes, and even pose for a photo with Oleksiak as well. He seems like he could be a great locker room guy- not a leader but someone who'd at least keep the locker room happy with his personality. If Grimaldi did one thing today, it was making a fan out of me
Other concerns and thoughts
One thing you've gotta factor in- some of these guys have been playing for an extra couple of months with the memorial cup- guys like Zach Phillips, Nathan Beaulieu and Jonathan Huberdeau have only gotten 5 days off since their memorial cup win on Sunday. They're likely dead tired, and they haven't had nearly as much time to rest as some guys, like Ryan Murphy or Gabriel Landeskog, who were both eliminated in the first round. In comparison, those guys would be well rested and ready for the rigorous testing. Some people might criticize someone like Huberdeau for his fitness because of it, but it's an unfair comparison just because the guy's gone all out for the last month or so.
On the topic of prospects struggling and scores, some prospects didn't do all the tests. For example, Tyler Wotherspoon did the curl ups, but his score for the bench press and push ups was not recorded. Perhaps he was injured, and probably couldn't do those exercises properly. Of course, I don't really know the reason, but it's something that could be a factor.
Nugent-Hopkins vs Larsson
I did talk to a few people about some of the big six- namely Adam Larsson, Sean Couturier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. While myself and many others think Nugent-Hopkins is guaranteed to be the first overall pick, some of the people I talked to said that Larsson could go first overall rather than Nugent-Hopkins. It will pose an interesting discussion for later.
Of course, i'll be back for the second day of testing- the big six of prospects might not be there, but those prospects still deserve some attention as well. I'll likely have some more thoughts.