Mike Morreale of NHL.com has seen his share of Draft Combines.
“If you go back 10 to 15 years, a lot of these players, they were more overwhelmed [by the Combine]. But it seems like now, it’s impressive how well the players get the support of the junior teams, their agents prepare them for this event. There used to be a time when all these guys had that deer in the headlights look,” he told San Jose Hockey Now, laughing.
So what can we glean from last week’s Combine in Buffalo? According to Morreale, who’s been attending since 2010, even though the players are more prepared than ever, player interviews are still more informative to teams than player testing.
“I don’t think a player can elevate his status at the Combine [testing]. A lot of times during the testing, it can be a little bit intimidating because all the strength coaches from all the NHL clubs, all 32, are at tables, just looking at these kids as they’re testing. They’re taking notes, they got their laptops open, typing away different things. I think all they want to see is the kids finish or just do their thing. They don’t want to see a player quit or give up, particularly on the bikes and stuff, maybe the pro agility test,” he said.
“I think the interviewing stage is the biggest part of the Combine — a lot of the staffs tell me that too — they just like to learn more about the player, not just on the ice, but their family growing up, how difficult it was for them, what they had to go through.”
Of course, the players also hear their share of quirky questions in their team interviews. The big one this year is the Montreal Canadiens asking all their interviewees to identify their spirit animal.
Morreale recalled a couple of his favorite questions from the past, one more insightful, one more off the wall:
“Would you rather play one year in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup or 10 years and never win it?”
“You’re sitting in a car with swim trunks on. It’s 100 degrees in the car, really hot, and you’re going to the lake. And as soon as you get to the lake, you can either sprint, jump right in, or are you the type of player to put your foot in the water and just kind of test things out?”
The Combine is also the hub for Draft gossip, one month away from the NHL Draft in Montreal on Jul. 7, and Morreale was in the middle of it all.
What is Morreale hearing with the San Jose Sharks? Who did the Sharks interview? Who is Morreale’s top-five for San Jose?
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