The NHL Scouting Combine returned to Buffalo this week after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ninety-six of the top prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft convened at the KeyBank Center for five days of interviews with 32 teams. The week culminated on Saturday with fitness tests at the LECOM Harborcenter, after which the players met with the media.
The Sabers hold three picks (9th, 16th and 28th overall) in the first round of the draft, which takes place July 7 at the Bell Center in Montreal. We’ll be examining some of the names that may be available for Buffalo here on Sabers.com over the course of the next month.
In the meantime, here are some early takeaways from the combine.
The fitness section of the combine harvester includes 12 stations for measuring strength, athleticism and endurance. The most well-known are the VO2max and Wingate tests, two resistance-based bike tests that require a puke bucket in close proximity. (The bike tests are so strenuous that they are conducted on separate days.)
Below are some of the outstanding features:
• Forward Brennan Ali, signing to the University of Notre Dame next season, tied for VO2 max (with Finnish forward Toppi Ronni) and finished second in mean power with the Wingate.
• Northeast defenseman Michael Fisher posted the best times in the pro-agility tests (5-10-5-yard shuttles both ways).
• Swedish defender Calle Odelius had the highest fatigue index and power output in the Wingate.
• Northeast forward Jack Hughes ranked first in the pull-up (19), third in the pro-agility test to the left and sixth in the bench press.
Odd questions asked by NHL teams are a staple of the combine. This year, one question kept popping up: which animal would you be? (The questioners were the Montreal Canadiens, according to prospect Marek Hejduk.)
Rutger McGroarty, a forward who led the US national team’s development program and was taunted by the Sabers in 16th overall, had the most considered answer.
“I said I’m an off-ice gorilla dad because I lead by example but also get to hang out with family,” McGroarty told reporters. “And then I said I was an African hound on the ice.”
Why an African Hound?
“Just because I feel like a little hound dog out there,” he said. “Just follow it, forecheck hard, backcheck.”
Others who showed their wild side: Jiri Kulich (lion), Frank Nazar (cheetah) and Cutter Gauthier (shark).
son of a saber
USNTDP winger Jimmy Snuggerud, the son of former Sabers forward Dave Snuggerud, was among the prospects this week. Dave played 215 games for the Sabers from 1989-92.
Jimmy is the 11th North American skater from NHL Central Scouting Services and a likely first-round pick. He had 89 points in 85 games last season. His teammates described him as a highly skilled striker with a knack for playmaking
“He’s wild and crazy, but it always works,” said Nazar. “He has such a great shot. He’s so sneaky and deceptive. I think that he will be a really good player in the future.”
McGroarty added, “I feel like he’s a super slippery player. He’s super skillful.”
Snuggerud said he interviewed the Sabers, an event that included owner Terry Pegula.
“It’s cool to meet the owner of a team,” he said.
defender Lian Bichsel, who was taunted to the Sabers in 16th overallHe was teammates with Sabers youngster Isak Rosen at SHL’s Leksands IF.
Rosen, the 14th overall winner last summer, signed his entry-level contract last week.
“Great person,” said Bichsel about roses. “He was just nice to me. When I came to Leksand he was one of the first to come up to me and say hello. And as a player he’s extremely fast. Good shot. He kicks in, he does everything for the team. Yes, great player.”
Bichsel also cited Saber’s defense attorneys Rasmus Dahlin Among NHL players, he tries to emulate his game.
“He’s extremely calm, like he knows what he wants to do,” said Bichsel.
Northeastern University forward Jack Hughes spent this season playing alongside Sabers’ Devon Levi, who received the Mike Richter Award for the nation’s top goaltender. Hughes and Levi are currently staying together during summer school.
“Only when he goes on the rink, I’ve really never seen anything like it,” Hughes said of Levi. “… We have early lift at 7am and I think he takes classes until about 3, 3:30. He’ll be in the room around 4am and then I won’t see him for the rest of the night. For example, some nights I’ll be in bed before he gets back from the rink.”