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Combine: Rigorous fitness testing next

Friday, 06.01.2012 / 3:25 PM / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com

TORONTO -- Now that all the prospects at the NHL Scouting Combine have completed their interviews, it's time to get down to business.

On Friday, 65 players will work their way through the grueling opening day of the fitness portion of the Combine, highlighted by the notorious bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and the VO2 Max test.

The remaining players will be tested Saturday.

"I've heard some horror stories about [the fitness tests] but I'm going to go into it with an open mind," Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray said. "And hopefully I don't puke."

Murray, NHL Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked North American skater, was one of six top prospects who discussed their Combine and their future during a media gathering inside the Westin Bristol Place on Thursday. He was joined by forwards Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia, Mikhail Grigorenko of Quebec and Filip Forsberg of Leksand in Sweden, and goalie Malcolm Subban of Belleville.

The VO2 test measures a player's aerobic capacity, specifically the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise.

The Wingate is one of the most physically demanding evaluations. Although just 30 seconds in duration, it is an anaerobic test performed on a cycle ergometer that's used to measure peak anaerobic power, as well as anaerobic capacity. In short, it gives general managers and scouts an idea what type of effort a particular player will exhibit during a 30-second shift on the ice.

Galchenyuk, ranked No. 4, is hoping to use the fitness testing as a way to prove, once and for all, that he has regained all his strength following surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in October.

"You want to make sure they know what kind of person you are and the character you have during the interviews, and in the fitness tests, I just want to make sure my knee is fine," Galchenyuk said. "I know my knee is fine, but to just to show these teams that I'm ready to go."

During his session with the media, Galchenyuk remarked that he hadn't heard any of the strange questions teams are notorious for asking prospects. Then one reporter asked him how many languages he spoke. Alex was born in Milwaukee during his father's playing time with the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League; Galchenyuk said he speaks Italian, Russian and English.

"Can you say 'I'm excited to be at the NHL Draft' for our Italian fans back home," asked the reporter. Puzzled, Galchenyuk looked in his direction and responded, 'Oh no, not that good Italian.'

Subban, the No. 1-ranked North American goalie, was asked if he received any Combine tips from his brother, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

"He gave me advice on how to be professional," Subban said. "I'm trying to make a name for myself. Some people say we're similar but I think we're different in certain ways. We're here for a reason and that's for the scouts to see us and for us to get tested. I'm not too worried about [the tests]. I've heard a lot about the VO2 but I'm not too worried about it."

In addition to the two bike exams, there are several other fitness tests that the players must go through in front of GM's, scouts, media and their peers. They include the standing long jump, vertical jump, curl-ups, grip strength, bench press, push-ups, and push/pull strength.

Grigorenko, who will not be participating in any of the physical testing because he has not yet been cleared for training after suffering a case of mononucleosis late in the season, is counting the days until he can return to the ice.

"Mini-camp will be in two months or something, so I'll be ready," Grigorenko said. "In a few days, I will start to train. I have all summer to train."

Forsberg, ranked No. 1 among European skaters, said he's taken the media attention in stride and has enjoyed the experience. Of course, only time will tell whether or not he feels the same way after Friday's testing. All five players are scheduled to be tested Friday.

"I try to enjoy this as much as possible," Forsberg said. "It's not what you're used to back home in Sweden with all this media stuff, but I like it. It's all going to be a part of your life so you have to live with it and get used to it. I feel I've handled the week pretty well. I was nervous in the beginning, but you try to be yourself and that's why I'm here. I'm a good player and have to show I'm a good person."

Yakupov, No. 1 among North America skaters, had to take a moment during his media session to pull out a handkerchief and wipe his brow.

"Wait guys … sweating," Yakupov said with a laugh. After a brief moment, he said, "Go again."

It's that type of personality, on top of his outstanding skills, that has captured the attention of fans throughout the hockey world.

"Sometimes, the media attention is good, but not every time," Yakupov told NHL.com. "Sometimes you need to be quiet. I like to be quiet right before games. I'm fine at practices."

Yakupov admitted that he didn't make any preparations for the fitness portion of the Combine. He said he feels like he did enough training during the course of the season and is as ready as he'll ever be. Yakupov is scheduled to begin his fitness exam at 1:30 p.m. ET in a group that includes forwards Ben Johnson and Kevin Roy, defensemen Max Iafrate, James Melindy and Brady Skjei and goalies Subban and Brandon Whitney.

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