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This past week the top NHL prospects gathered in Buffalo, New York for the NHL combine. There was immense focus and pressure on the two players vying for first overall- Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. The Devils are currently in the position where they have to decide between the two. It is a potentially franchise-altering decision so all factors should be taken into account by the scouting department. This did not stop the Devils from having fun as they proposed a deal to Hischier. Each year some of the top prospects in the NHL draft attend a Stanley Cup Final game, this year it is game four in Nashville. Apparently the Devils told Hischier that if he successfully threw a catfish on the ice during the game and they would take him 1st overall.
Hischier asked where he could buy a catfish at the end of the interview.
The physical component of the combine only has loose connections to the actual game of hockey, but it is good to have a uniform benchmark for these young players conditioning. Here are the results for their physical tests.
Bench Press: 12
Bench Press: 7
One of the most interesting pieces of information gained is Hischier’s exact height, since he was listed as 6’0” before the combine. One of the many storylines being pushed is that Patrick possesses an NHL-ready frame while Hischier may not be physically ready for the rigors of the NHL. This measurement closed the gap to just an inch, which should really squash that narrative. Hischier also performed admirably on the rest of his test. Patrick definitely is the stronger player at the moment though,only doing two less pull-ups than Hischier and while also completing five more reps on the bench press while lifting 14 more pounds (bench press requires prospects to lift 70% of their bodyweight). Patrick can still probably acclimate better to the NHL with his frame, but Hischier isn’t going to be pushed around and definitely won’t be moved to wing due to size.
Patrick came out before the physical testing and stated a large portion of missed games this season were due to a misdiagnosis of his sports hernia. This led to one of his hernias being left untreated by surgery while the other underwent a procedure. He also stated he still isn’t at 100% health but feels that with a full summer of workouts he will be in peak form for training camp next year.
Other interesting stories that arose from the combine included the lack of performance from Casey Mittelstadt, the number one U.S-born prospect. Mittelstadt controversially forewent USHL hockey to return to high school in search of a state championship. Mittelstadt clearly is either hurt or did not receive the same conditioning as other prospects because he was only able to do one bench rep while failing to complete any pushups. He’s not being paid to do pull-ups and bench presses, but to be a skilled playmaker. Having said that, it is a slightly disappointing showing for an elite offensive talent.
A defenseman the Devils should keep an eye on is Henri Jokiharju. His play style will be profiled in an upcoming article but he can be described as a puck moving right-handed defenseman, something the Devils desperately need. He had a growth spurt and grew two inches to 6’1” and gained 18 pounds and is now 188. Projectable size for someone who hopefully can become part of the blue line in Newark.