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Features

Thompson addresses NHL Combine approach

Monday, 06.01.2009 / 8:00 AM / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Robert Desimone  - Special to Wild.com
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With the 2009 Entry Draft fast approaching, NHL Central Scouting recently hosted the NHL Combine in Toronto, and members of the Wild Hockey Operations Department were in attendance to take a look at 104 of this year’s top prospects. The week consisted of psychological, medical and fitness tests, which began May 25 and concluded May 30.

Wild Assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson, along with Coordinator of Amateur Scouting Guy Lapointe, plus Amateur Scouts Paul Charles and Marc Chamard, spent the week interviewing players with Wild Team Psychologist Charlie Maher. Of the 104 prospects in attendance, the Wild interviewed 68 players and performed psychological assessments with 66.

The prospects first fill out questionnaires, then sit for interviews that include questions about the prospect’s background, his family background, relationships with people and how he deals with particular situations. Through this information, the scouting staff is able to create a database with information on each player.

Thompson says the Combine will not make or break a decision, it gives the staff a chance to get a closer look at players.
“Say if you have Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie), this year he turns 18,” Thompson said. “We want to have in the computer five years from now the report on him when he was eligible for the draft, the reports that follow him after he’s drafted, the interview (what we derived from that), the results of the psychological assessments, and also the results of the medical examination.”

Having this information in the database becomes an important part of the future for Thompson and his scouting staff.

“We’re interested in drafting all these guys right now, but the reality is, for every 10 players you really want to draft, if you get one of them you’re doing well. But these guys are going to be with other teams and a number of them are going to be available at various stages of their career.”

When those players do become available is when the time and effort at the Combine pay off, and the psychological assessments become especially important.

“[Maher] would categorize based on the interviews and based on the findings of the questionnaires, and the players would be identified as green flag, amber flag or red flag. On a number of the players, there’s no concern at all, but the odd guy is going to be a guy where there is an amber flag or red flag, meaning [Maher] really strongly recommends that this particular situation be looked at.”

The flagging process gives Thompson and his staff a chance to re-evaluate players who they might otherwise consider highly, where there’s something in their off-ice behavior that might impact their ability to perform on the ice. After a player is flagged and reviewed, the analysis still depends on instincts.

“It is a gut feeling, that you say this guy just doesn’t have an adequate personality to be a top-flight competitive athlete.”

At the conclusion of the interviews and psychological tests, the players spend the final two days performing a range of fitness tests. Current Wild Strength and Conditioning Coach Kirk Olson and former Strength and Conditioning Coach George Kinnear followed prospects through the various stations of the testing. Both Olson and Kinnear took 37 prospects each, for a total of 74 that the Wild followed through the tests.

Thompson believes the key to the fitness test is evaluating a player's potential and what room for development they think is there.

“To a certain extent, you’re not going to take a guy because he does real well on the tests if he looks like he’s an inferior hockey player to someone else. You’re looking for what potential particular guys might have.”

But there are still tests that some consider highly, and Kinnear is a big believer in the standing long jump.
 
“He would say that the vertical jump is good, but basketball is a vertical game and hockey is an explosion game. He goes to the 2000 Draft, when we took Marian Gaborik -- some of his fitness test results were decent, some were average, but he blew the field away in the standing long jump and, obviously, he was the most explosive skater in that Draft.”

While Thompson says the Combine will not make or break a decision, it gives the staff a chance to get a closer look at players, and it offers more insight on the potential impact he could have at the NHL level.

“It’s been really good," he said. " I think the NHL Central Scouting has organized it very well and we think we’re a lot more knowledgeable about the players now than we were coming in.”

Combine Notes
-    Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher arrived at the Combine Friday afternoon and remained through the fitness testing Saturday
-    There are nine prospects with Minnesota connections at the Combine, including Jordan Schroeder, Zach Budish, Nick Leddy, Ben Hanowsi, Seth Helgeson, Josh Birkholz, Danny Mattson, Erik Haula and Alexander Fallstrom
-    Wild Director of Hockey Operations Chris Snow was also in attendance for the first part of the week to help transcribe player interviews
-    Of the 104 prospects, 83 were North American and 21 were considered International





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