Monday, May 26, 2008

Going for a Bike Ride

The countdown has begun for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and while everyone is putting together their various mock drafts there is an event for select prospects that will go a long way in deciding where the prospects will wind up. We are talking about the annual NHL scouting combine that will start tomorrow in Toronto.

In many ways this is the make or break for many a prospect as they can make up for a suspect season or they can take a great season and render it worthless. The NHL Combine is a series of tests that range from the psychological to the downright cruelest of torture test.

It is a chance for NHL teams to break down prospects, it is a chance for prospects to show a side of them that otherwise would escape the scouts and general managers. From discovering a hidden talent like speaking a language that nobody knew they spoke or dispelling questions about someone's heart.

The torture test we are talking about is know only as "the bike" and from the horror stories we have been told it just might be the most frightening measuring stick ever created. Nobody from the NHL has ever openly taken credit for developing this "performance test" but whoever did has created something that gets talked about.

"The Bike" is actually 2 different exercises as the first part will test a player's power as the prospect's feet are taped to the pedals of the bike, the resistance depending on the prospect's weight is adjusted from 15-22 lbs and then without standing the prospect has to pedal as hard as he can for 30 seconds.

We heard a rumor that when Freddie Sjostrom took the test in 2001 that he passed out and fell off the bike. The rumors according to legend say he was out cold before he hit the floor. Others have told stories of being dizzy, unable to see straight or thinking their world was coming to an end.

What is even more frightening is that this was the easier of the 2 tests as the 2nd part of this exercise is something out a real horror novel. Scouts claim that this is a test of a person's character as much as it is about measuring a prospect's maxing out their oxygen intake.

From all descriptions we have heard it is a cruel and almost barbaric test and nobody scout or personal director has every offered us any proof that this test has any real value. That is of course our point of view as those involved with the NHL truly believe it's value.

How to describe this monster starts with a set up of 4 bikes and next to each is a steel canister which is used to measure oxygen output. They use computers to collect and analyze carbon dioxide and oxygen. So far this does not sound all that bad but just wait it gets "interesting".

They strap the player to the pedals as before but here is the twist; they insert a plastic hose into the prospect's mouth. Then depending on how long a prospect takes to max out his oxygen intake (reportedly 10-20 minutes), the prospect is put though a series of tests that can be described as the ultimate horror for some.

Depending on who you listen to the failure to complete this exercise ranges from 15% to as high as 30%. The only thing any prospect has have said in common with another was how happy they were to get away from this device.

If you were able to make it though the entire test, it was simply a grueling experience that you are ever so glad that you will never have to repeat. However for those who struggled it was the nightmare of nightmares.

Prospects threw up, they felt as if they were jumping out of their skin or they thought they were on fire but they tried their best to make it though it. Rumors about how those who failed this test supposedly were viewed as lacking in heart drives many.

What is interesting in among the Ranger prospects we have ever talked to about this experience none really wants to share their own personal experience with the Ranger fans. On that count we can understand as this is a personal look deep inside oneself.

One can understand that when one discovers how much heart he truly has that sometimes it is not a very pleasant experience. We can guess at how well some of the Ranger prospects may have done because we know firsthand how strong the heart and desire of some of them.

What we can hope for is that whoever takes these tests over the next couple of days that they do their best.

For the rest of this week we are going to look at where the Rangers need to use their draft picks as well as doing a fresh version of the mock draft.

Some housecleaning

We wanted to send out a belated congrats to Bobby Sanguinetti who earned a Second Team ALL-OHL honors last week. Sanguinetti had the misfortune of having a career season during the same season as several highly talented draft eligible prospects.

Sanguinetti is still on track to become a very important part of the Ranger's future. Do not underestimate his ability to learn and while we think he needs time to work on his game in Hartford we would not be shocked to see him make the direct jump to the Rangers.

A message to John: I think you misread me when you wrote this:

No man, if the Canucks don't get Filatov, then they will get Boedker, as he is next on the offensive depth chart on this year's draft. The Canucks don't need another pest; they already have the shutdown/pest duo of Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler.

Beeach is a very skilled player in his own right in addition to being a pest. What the Canucks do not need is more Europeans right now as their fans want to see a rugged tough guy who can score and right now despite his rep as a head case is also the best power forward prospect in the draft.

Neither Burrows or Kessler have Beeach's offensive upside and while I like Boedker the player he is just 5'11 compared to Beeach's 6'3. If the Canucks take the smaller Boedker over the monster sized Beeach the Canuck fans will riot (when don't they?)

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