Before the 2022 NHL draft takes place in a little more than a month, 96 of this year's top prospects are heading to Buffalo where they'll have an opportunity to improve their stock.
The 2022 NHL draft combine is set to take place at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter beginning on Monday. The event, which runs through Saturday, gives the league's 32 teams an opportunity to get a close look at some of the players who will be available during this year's draft, which is set for July 7-8 in Montreal.
This is the first time the combine is taking place since 2019, as it was canceled the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the players invited to this year's event are 63 forwards, 30 defensemen and three goaltenders.
Here's everything else you need to know about this year's NHL draft combine.
According to NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale, the draft combine gives the league's teams "physical and medical assessments of the top prospects" prior to the upcoming draft.
"The NHL combine is the final showcase event before the NHL draft and it's a week full of interviews, medicals and fitness testing where the players get to interact with NHL personnel and the NHL clubs get to learn as much as possible about the future stars of our game," NHL central scouting director Dan Marr said, per Morreale.
Prospects will have 1-on-1 interviews with teams from Monday through Friday. There will be medical exams on Wednesday, and the majority of the fitness tests won't take place until Saturday. Among the tests will be the standing long jump, the bench press, the pro agility test and more.
NHL and AHL strength coaches will serve as the administrators of the fitness tests, which is a change from previous years, according to Morreale.
Many mock drafts have Shane Wright as the first player likely to be taken during the 2022 NHL draft, and he'll look to ensure that happens with a strong showing this week. The 18-year-old center, who has been playing for the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, will be among the top prospects attending the combine.
Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reported that Wright is scheduled to meet with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. It will be the first time that Wright has met with the Habs, who own the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. According to Marek, Wright also has a post-combine meeting scheduled with the New Jersey Devils, who own the No. 2 selection.
It's hard to imagine the Canadiens wouldn't pick Wright, especially if he performs well at this week's combine. But if he is still on the board at No. 2, then there's a good chance he could end up going to the Devils.
Among the other prospects set to attend the combine are forwards Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky, who are both likely to join Wright as probable top-five picks.
"Getting the chance to talk to different NHL teams; some have asked to take me out to dinner, so I think that'll be pretty fun," Cooley said of the combine, per Morreale. "Just to get an idea what the teams are thinking. I think just meeting some new people there, all the different prospects, it'll be pretty cool to see in person and maybe talk to them a little bit."
Cooley is one of nine prospects from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program who will be taking part in the combine. And he's likely to be the first among that group selected in the draft.
While the combine isn't the only thing that will be evaluated by NHL teams when they're considering players, it can help them form a better idea of who they may want to target. So prospects are going to want to perform well, especially those who may be further down the projected board at this point.