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The NHL Scouting Combine is back: time to measure those wingspans

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The combine has been going on all week, but today is when fitness tests starts and the oh, so (un)important measurements get taken.

Owen Sound Attack v Windsor Spitfires
Which test measures if you can still play the puck while standing on one toe?
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

The 2017 NHL Scouting Combine is going strong in Buffalo. The draft prospects have already done interviews with teams, had their medical tests and are ready to hit the floor of the HarborCenter on Saturday for the usual round of tests and measurements in front of the cameras.

You guessed it, that means it’s time for wingspan measurements and the vomit bike. They do some testing today as well.

Most of the top prospects are attending this year’s event, and Sportsnet has a handy list set up with Saturday’s schedule.

Sportsnet will be streaming the Saturday circus on their website and on Facebook Live. Your hosts will again be Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino. They know their prospects, and last year it was surprisingly fun to watch and listen to their commentary and interviews. Although to be perfectly honest, Auston Matthews’ shoes were kind of the highlight.

The perennial question of jaded hockey fans is what do these tests even mean. Some of them are dubious looking, to be sure, but they all measure something. And, of course, seeing how a young hockey player responds to some guy shouting at him while he tries to ride a stationary bike all out is a test of a different kind.

The whole week is a test. Some of it uncomfortably like a test of conformity. You will hear the families of these draft picks extolled as virtuous just for having produced an elite hockey talent, but if any of these kids don’t have a fifties sit-com type of family, they might decide to keep that quiet.

One kid doesn’t. Jaret Anderson-Dolan, ranked #21 by NHL Central Scouting (N. A. Skaters only, so a late first, early second pick sort of player), has been open about his family structure causing him to drop in the WHL draft. I’m more interested to hear how Anderson-Dolan does on the VO2max test than I am if any NHL teams share the unfounded fears and prejudices of some in the WHL. He has a track record of high scores on that test. But he is proof that hockey has a long way to go, but also that it is on the road heading in the right direction.

The tests themselves don’t care who your parents are.

Sportsnet again, has a full rundown on the tests, what they measure, and how they’re performed. Last year, the VO2max test was moved to the Friday session, and therefore off camera, and likely will be again. Two bike tests in one short span of time is too much. The VO2max is a measure of aerobic fitness, or how the heart utilizes oxygen.

The vomit bike, is the Wingate test, and it’s a measure of anaerobic fitness. The point of this exercise is to measure how much power an athlete can produce in short bursts.

Both of the bike tests give an idea of how well a player’s training has progressed so it can give teams an idea about how close to pro-level the person is as well as just giving a baseline of their level of fitness.

They just look like torture, but there is a purpose to them.

Possibly one of the least meaningful tests is the bench press. But it is a test that teenage boys will train for and compete over. Shocking thing in a bunch of high-level athletes. There are a bunch of jumping and agility tests, similar to things teams have players do in training camp, and of course there are those body measurements that have far too much importance attached to them: height, weight and wingspan.

Sportsnet’s coverage begins on Saturday at 9:30 and runs until 12:30. The actual testing starts two hours earlier, so they are skipping two groups of athletes who are mostly Finns, Russians and other Europeans.

The 9:30 group features Nico Hischier, Anderson-Dolan, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Michael Rasmussen.

Nolan Patrick is in the next group at 10:30, along with Kailer Yamamoto and Cal Foote.

Nicolas Hague and Nick Suzuki don’t go out until the 3:00 p.m. group.

The last group at 4:00 p.m. is mostly Swedes and includes a lot of players we have taken a look at. Elias Pettersson, Lias Andersson, Erik Brannstrom and Timothy Liljegren are all in this group along with goalie Olle Eriksson Ek.

Our full list of draft profiles can be found right here if you want to read up to decide whose wingspan means the most to you.