It is the beginning of June. In the hockey world, that means two things. First, the Stanley Cup Final is ongoing. Both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins hope this June is their time. As for the other 29 teams (welcome Vegas), preparations are underway for the NHL Draft.
But before we worry about the draft in Chicago, the NHL Combine in Buffalo takes center stage.
You know what happens at the Combine. Teams meet with draft hopefuls face-to-face in one of the only chances before the draft to do so. Teams will conduct interviews to get to know the prospects on a personal level. Besides interviews, the prospects will go through medical testing as well as fitness testing.
So what do we need to watch for this weekend? Here are three storylines that I am watching for.
Proud home of the 2017 Scouting Combine.
— LECOM Harborcenter (@Harborctr) June 1, 2017
It’s all the rage in the NHL. The Vegas Golden Knights start play next season. The question on everyone’s mind is what are the Golden Knights thinking? Maybe we’ll get some clues this weekend at the Combine.
General Manager George McPhee is part of the group with the Golden Knights talking to prospects and evaluating them for the draft. He will speak to the media on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 P.M. The expansion draft is fast approaching. What’s his mindset? How are the Golden Knights preparing for the unveiling of their roster? How many calls is McPhee taking?
There are so many questions we may not get all the answers to. But I expect that we’ll get some small hints here and there that could give us a sense of what’s coming. Make no mistake. This June will be one of the most memorable in league history and the Golden Knights are at the center of it. Prepare for the unexpected.
Everyone’s Together in One Place
Word at the Combine is that there are more general managers there than usual. That’s not surprising considering the upcoming expansion draft. When all teams come together in one place, there is lots of talking. It’s no different here.
Teams constantly talk to others about their situations and needs to see if there is a potential fit for a trade. With so many questions about the expansion draft, the salary cap, the perceived weakness in the entry draft among other things, teams are trying to get answers to their own questions.
This is a great opportunity to talk to the decision makers about the week in Buffalo and what could come in the near future. McPhee speaks on Saturday. It’s expected others will do the same. We’ll speak to general managers and others as they are made available. Stay tuned to our coverage for all the latest. We will be on site from the time the first prospect checks in for fitness testing until the last one speaks to us after their testing concludes. If they say it, you’ll know about it.
Meeting the Prospects
This is the meat and potatoes of Combine Saturday. There are 104 prospects scheduled to complete their fitness testing. We’ll see which prospects excel at which events. Afterwards, prospects are made available to the media to talk about their testing and their week in Buffalo.
This is perhaps my favorite part of the event. Unless there’s an injury or something unforeseen, every prospect is made available. This gives us the chance to get to know them a bit.
How many teams did a prospect talk to? What was the hardest question asked during the week? How would you describe your season? What are your plans for next season?
These are the kind of questions you’ll see in abundance. We’ve seen prospects play the games. Now we get to see their personal side. This helps us get a better idea of who these prospects are.
If anything else breaks over the weekend, we’ll make sure you know about it. By the time the fitness testing is over, we should have a better idea of what might happen this month, even if it’s just a little.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.