John Tavares and Victor Hedman will “run the gauntlet” this week in the race to be drafted No. 1 overall.
The consensus top two prospects for June’s NHL entry draft are in Toronto for Central Scouting’s annual draft combine and will be put through rigorous physical fitness testing.
Dubbed “running the gauntlet,” Central Scouting sets up 16 stations — not for the faint of heart — around the horseshoe perimeter of the Westin Bristol ballroom.
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“These kids will be pushed almost to exhaustion,” said E.J. McGuire, director of Central Scouting. “It’s a chance to show teams what kind of shape you’re in. With all the telemetry, if a kid’s not in shape, this will tell them.”
McGuire said the hardest tests on the gauntlet are the Anaerobic Wingate and the aerobic VO2 max tests.
More than 100 prospects will be put under the microscope at the combine, which also includes a detailed medical review and gives teams a chance to interview prospects.
Tavares, a gifted London Knights sniper and the Ontario Hockey League’s all-time leading goal-scorer, and the Swedish Hedman, a six-foot-five, blue-line behemoth with two-way polish, have been battling for the No. 1 spot for two years.
One scouting publication recently added Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene to that group.
“Sometimes, the combine moves a guy up or down a notch,” McGuire said. “Teams have lists ready to go, but the combine might confirm or disconfirm something.”
The New York Islanders hold the No. 1 pick in the draft, while the Toronto Maple Leafs have made no secret about their interest in Tavares and want to move up from No. 7.
As for who wins the battle for No. 1? Depends on who you ask and, ultimately, it could come down to the needs of the team who holds the pick. But if you ask McGuire?
“My personal prediction is John Tavares,” McGuire said. “He’s going to be a 30-goal scorer for a decade or so in the NHL. What team doesn’t want to have that?”