NHL Draft Combine 2019: Dates, Schedule, Format and Top Prospects

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2019

Jack Hughes is expected to perform in the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo.
Jack Hughes is expected to perform in the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The NHL draft, which gets underway June 21, will give every team in the league a chance to find the game's newest young stars and improve their rosters for the 2019-20 season and beyond.

But before the league's 31 member franchises get together at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the top prospects will gather in Buffalo on Monday for the NHL Scouting Combine.

Interviews between the teams and the 104 draft-eligible players who have been invited to participate in the event will be conducted Monday through Friday, medical exams will take place Wednesday and seven of the fitness tests will take place at Harborcenter on Saturday.

Additional fitness tests will take place once players have been given the go-ahead after performing adequately in the medical tests

These fitness drills push the draft prospects to the limit, with the Wingate Cycle Ergometer serving as the most demanding and exhausting challenge of all.

Players are asked to get on an exercise bike for 45 seconds, go all out in an initial spurt of 10 seconds, followed by alternating intervals of rest and five seconds of maximum power.

Some of the other events include the long jump, the jump station, bench press, pull-ups and the VO2max test, which is nearly as demanding as the Wingate.

Players are asked to ride a spin bike for as long as they can pedal. This takes place while a player is wearing a device that measures the oxygen and performing at a maximum exercise level. The athletes must keep the bike spinning at a minimum RPM level or the test gets stopped by the administrator.

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Kappo Kakko has been tearing it up for Finland at the World Championships. Has his recent play put him ahead of Jack Hughes? @Hockey_Robinson joins @alexjauld and @SatiarShah to discuss what puts Kakko ahead of Hughes. LISTEN: https://t.co/DGKRYGsqJa

Top draft prospects Jack Quinn and Kaapo Kakko are expected to attend and participate fully in the combine.

Hughes, a 5'10", 170-pound center, has been rated as the No. 1 prospect throughout the season, and he is considered one of the top offensive prospects in recent years. Hughes scored 34 goals and 78 assists in 50 games for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

Hughes also played with a group of NHL All-Stars for the U.S. National team in the World Championship in Slovakia. The 17-year-old had three assists in seven games, and he impressed his teammates.

"I think he does some things better than me," U.S. captain Patrick Kane said, per Aaron Vickers of NHL.com. "He's a really young kid. As time goes on, he's only going to get better and better. His potential, obviously, is through the roof. Talking to him and watching him play, he wants to be the best. He has that 'it' factor.

Kakko is a 6'2", 194-pound Finnish right wing who has been a steady No. 2 prospect throughout the season. However, recent improvement may see him to challenge Hughes as the top choice in the draft.

The New Jersey Devils will have the No. 1 pick in the June draft, while the New York Rangers will select second.

Some of the other elite players include defenseman Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League, center Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL, forward Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL, right wing Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Ontario Hockey League and center Peyton Krebs of the Kootenay Ice in the WHL.

Top European players that are expected to participate in the combine include right wing Vasili Podkolzin of St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League, defensemen Victor Soderstrom of Brynas in the Swedish Hockey League, defenseman Ville Heinola of Lukko in Liiga and defenseman Philip Broberg of Sweden's AIK.

Here's a link to the full list of invited players, per NHL.com.

Most scouting departments have made their judgments on this year's class, but the conditioning tests and the medical exam will allow them to fine-tune their selections by locking them in or moving them up or down their respective draft boards.