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NHL prospects combine begins today

It doesn't get nearly the attention of the NFL combine, but the NHL version, that runs this week in Toronto is just as important for league general manager's who want to solidify in their minds what their scouting already has told them.

There will be 104 prospects on hand, and though they will not go on the ice, there will be physical testing and interviews with individual teams. For Lightning GM Brian Lawton, the interviews are the most important part of the show.

"I have this baseline that they're all good enough to do it," Lawton said. "What are those components they need to get them over the hump? What's going to separate them? To me, past history is a big part of it. ... You look for patterns in life. It's the best indicator of future success. You look for the kids who exude confidence, who have shining examples of attributes like character that will help them be successful."

Said assistant GM Claude Loiselle to " You try to get a feel for how they behave, their emotional stability, maturity level, their overall intelligence and awareness. You try to gauge their ability to learn, develop and adapt. ... Add it all together, you can get a book on a kid."

Lawton said he asks about family, school, anything that will give him better insight into what makes a player tick. Last year was easy. After talking to Steven Stamkos, how could you not have picked him with the No. 1 overall pick. Tampa Bay has the No. 2 pick this season and its scouting tells it Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman is the choice. But what if Hedman isn't there when the Lightning picks? It will be interesting to see if John Tavares is the slam-dunk choice after Lawton finishes with his interview or if a guy like forward Matt Duchene, whose stock has risen lately, improves his position.

Why not put the players on the ice to get a look? The idea is that players on teams out of the playoffs probably haven't played or perhaps skated for a while and it would be unfair to put them on the ice against players who have continued to skate in playoff situations.

Another benefit of the combine is the physical testing. Remember last year when David Carle, brother of NHLer Matt Carle, was diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition? In one of the best moments of the draft, Tampa Bay selected David anyway with a seventh-round pick.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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