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2018 NHL Combine results are where the fitness-focused players shine

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The leaders in the bench press are not always the best hockey players, but looking at all the numbers is still fun.

Saginaw Spirit v London Knights
Liam Foudy of the London Knights.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Every year, the NHL publishes the top 25 in each test at the Combine, which was completed today. If all you want is the height and weight, and some are very different from the listed numbers from a few months ago, this article has you covered.

But height at age 18 is not the full story even in predicting the advantages taller players enjoy. Reach is one of those advantages.

The tallest player on the new height list is Curtis Douglas at 6’8” and some change. Unsurprisingly, he is second in the wingspan measure, which more accurately gives you an idea of reach. Although, of course, maximum stick length in the NHL is based on height. But Jack McBain, at only 6’3” and very little change has the same 81.25” wingspan as Douglas.

Serron Noel, ranked in the Leafs’ range on a lot of draft lists, is 6’5” but has only a 77.25” wingspan. Noel might not have the reach you’d assume from his height. K’Andre Miller, also in the Leafs’ range is tall-ish, at 6’3”, and has a big reach at 79.75”.

Unsurprisingly, most of the tall and high-wingspan players are defenders like Miller and Douglas, but McBain is the college-bound forward from Toronto who is playing right now in the OJHL to preserve his NCAA eligibility. He is ranked into the second round on most lists, but players who choose his route to the NHL are harder to rank. He also ranked very high on multiple fitness type tests, but not on the more strength-oriented tests.

There are three goalies high up in the wingspan list. Nowhere is limb length in excess of the average as much an advantage as it is in net. You also have to be good at stopping pucks too, but the reach helps.

One of the players who shows up in a lot of strength categories is Liam Foudy. He’s a centre, likely going to go in the second round, and he’s of average size for a hockey player, measuring 6’0” and 173.9 lbs. If anything, he’s underweight to what he will be at maturity.

He is fourth on the bench press list, tops in vertical jump, second in squat jump, tops in the no-arm jump, tops in standing long jump and nowhere on the pull-up list. This man is all leg.

Speaking of pull-ups, Jacob Bernard-Docker did 15, the only player to do that. Can you imagine? Two players did 14 and a host did 12 or 13. So there’s a lot of guys who did not skip arm day.

A lot of people swear by the aerobic and anaerobic tests of fitness of various sorts. Looking at these lists over several years, the thing that sticks out with me is who excels. It’s usually players on teams with the resources to aid in their players’ physical training — top men’s teams in Europe, top junior teams in Canada with financial resources and sometimes USHL players, but not as often.

Liam Foudy, the man who is all leg, is tops at the anaerobic peak power test, but you see totally different players on the mean power output version.

The VO2max test (the aerobic bike test) leader is Cameron Hillis, a likely second rounder who plays for Guelph in the OHL after four years at St. Andrew’s College. Number two is another OHL player, and likely second round pick, Aidan Dudas. Really the Leafs should get him just for the Dubas - Dudas fun.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that the leaders in a lot of categories are often second round or later prospects, like those two very aerobically fit young guys above, who have realized they need to maximize every advantage to succeed. You won’t find Rasmus Dahlin anywhere but on the wingspan list. And not because he doesn’t work; he does, on his hockey. He has played for years in a system with excellent training staff and a commitment to a tough regimen of training, but he’s been working on honing his brain, which is why it’s going to be really annoying to play the Buffalo Sabres for years to come.

The fitness and strength tests mean more for the players who work had to do well in them — players for whom hard work is their ticket to a higher draft position.

Have a look at the lists for yourself and see if you see any surprises on players you’re interested in. This sure was: