Scouting Combine Invitation Only
Get ready, Buffalo.
The very best draft eligible prospects will be invading the HARBORCenter from May 30 through June 4.
Projected first overall pick Auston Matthews will headline the event and will be followed closely by fantastic Finn forwards Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
There are some observers, yours truly included, who feel that Laine will give Matthews a serious run for the first overall pick in the draft. A strong showing at the IIHF Worlds coupled with a virtuoso performance at the Scouting Combine may flip the scrip and nudge Laine ahead of Matthews in the court of public opinion.
The Toronto Maple Leafs currently hold the top selection followed by the Winnipeg Jets with the second selection and the Columbus Blue Jackets with the third selection.
In all, there will be 114 draft eligible prospects invited to the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine.
Matthews, who is leading Team USA at the IIHF Worlds right now, scored 24 goals and collected 46 points in 36 games for Zurich in the Swiss league.
Matthews is currenly #1 on the ISS and NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters for the 2016 draft, which will be held at First Niagara Center on June 24-25.
Laine, the man child with the Alex Ovechkin-esque clapper, potted 17 goals and collected 33 points in 46 games for Tappara in the Finnish Elite League. Laine added 10 more goals and 15 points in 18 playoff games and was named playoff MVP while helping Tappara win the league title.
Puljujarvi ripped 13 goals and totaled 28 points in 50 games with Karpat in the Finnish Elite League.
Laine and Puljujarvi helped Finland win the gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Puljujarvi, 17, led the tournament with 17 points, the most by an under-18 player since Jaromir Jagr of Czechoslovakia had 18 points at the 1990 WJC. He also was named the best forward and most valuable player of the tournament. Laine tied Matthews for the WJC lead with seven goals.
The NHL Combine allows the brain trust and management of all 30 NHL teams a comprehensive complete physical and medical evaluation of all of the top prospects prior to the annual amateur draft.
Per usual, teams will have the opportunity to interview and get to know better each and every prospect that they have on their scouting boards. A great interview coupled with a strong fitness assessment can go a long way to bumping up the overall value and draft positioning of certain prospects. The reverse is also true in that a poor interview and a mediocre physical fitness performance can devalue certain prospects.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment and the Buffalo Sabres took the Scouting Combine to new heights in 2015 by hosting all of the physical fitness testing at the one-of-a-kind HARBORCenter, which is attached and directly adjacent to the home of the Buffalo Sabres First Niagara Center. The Pegulas also own the Marriott hotel where the prospects and NHL dignitaries will be housed for the during of the Scouting Combine which will run from May 30 through June 3.
Here are your Scouting Combine invitees in alphabetical order. I've highlighted my top ten picks in bold.
PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE POSITION
VITALY ABRAMOV, GATINEAU, QMJHL, RW
FREDERIC ALLARD, CHICOUTIMI, QMJHL, D
WADE ALLISON, TRI-CITY, USHL, RW
JOSEPH ANDERSON, USA U-18, USHL, RW
JOSH ANDERSON, PRINCE GEORGE, WHL, D
JONATHAN ANG, PETERBOROUGH, OHL, C
RASMUS ASPLUND, FARJESTAD, SWEDEN, C
NATHAN BASTIAN, MISSISSAUGA, OHL, RW
JAKE BEAN, CALGARY, WHL, D
KIEFFER BELLOWS, USA U-18, USHL, LW
TYLER BENSON, VANCOUVER, WHL, LW
WILLIAM BITTEN, FLINT, OHL, C
HENRIK BORGSTROM, HIFK JR., FINLAND-JR., C
JESPER BRATT, AIK, SWEDEN-2, LW/RW
LOGAN BROWN, WINDSOR, OHL, C
VOJTECH BUDIK, PRINCE ALBERT, WHL, D
CONNOR BUNNAMAN, KITCHENER, OHL, C
NICHOLAS CAAMANO, FLINT, OHL, RW
MATTHEW CAIRNS, GEORGETOWN, OJHL, D
JACOB CEDERHOLM, HV 71 JR., SWEDEN-JR., D
DENNIS CHOLOWSKI, CHILLIWACK, BCHL, D
JAKOB CHYCHRUN, SARNIA, OHL, D
KALE CLAGUE, BRANDON, WHL, D
EVAN CORMIER, SAGINAW, OHL, G
JONATHAN DAHLEN, TIMRA, SWEDEN-2, C
SEAN DAY, MISSISSAUGA, OHL, D
ALEX DEBRINCAT, ERIE, OHL, RW
CAM DINEEN, NORTH BAY, OHL, D
DILLON DUBE, KELOWNA, WHL, C
PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS, CAPE BRETON, QMJHL, LW
DANTE FABBRO, PENTICTON, BCHL, D
MATT FILIPE, CEDAR RAPIDS, USHL, LW
EVAN FITZPATRICK, SHERBROOKE, QMJHL, G
ADAM FOX, USA U-18, USHL, D
TRENT FREDERIC, USA U-18, USHL, C
JULIEN GAUTHIER, VAL-D'OR, QMJHL, RW
TIMOTHY GETTINGER, SAULT STE. MARIE, OHL, LW
BRANDON GIGNAC, SHAWINIGAN, QMJHL, C
SAMUEL GIRARD, SHAWINIGAN, QMJHL, D
BENJAMIN GLEASON, HAMILTON, OHL, D
MICHAEL GRAHAM, EDEN PRAIRIE, HIGH-MN, C
LUKE GREEN, SAINT JOHN, QMJHL, D
JAMES GREENWAY, USA U-18, USHL, D
NOAH GREGOR, MOOSE JAW, WHL, C
CARL GRUNDSTROM, MODO, SWEDEN, RW
FILIP GUSTAVSSON, LULEA JR., SWEDEN-JR., G
LIBOR HAJEK, SASKATOON, WHL, D
CARTER HART, EVERETT, WHL, G
BRETT HOWDEN, MOOSE JAW, WHL, C
FILIP HRONEK, HR. KRALOVE, CZREP, D
LUCAS JOHANSEN, KELOWNA, WHL, D
MAX JONES, LONDON, OHL, LW
TYSON JOST, PENTICTON, BCHL, C
OLLI JUOLEVI, LONDON, OHL, D
TANNER KASPICK, BRANDON, WHL, C
BORIS KATCHOUK, SAULT STE. MARIE, OHL, LW
ARTUR KAYUMOV, TEAM RUSSIA U18, RUSSIA-JR., LW/RW
CLAYTON KELLER, USA U-18, USHL, C
WILLIAM KNIERIM, DUBUQUE, USHL, RW
JACK KOPACKA, SAULT STE. MARIE, OHL, LW
CHAD KRYS, USA U-18, USHL, D
LUKE KUNIN, U OF WISCONSIN, BIG10, C
VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, ACADIE-BATHURST, QMJHL, RW
JORDAN KYROU, SARNIA, OHL, C
PASCAL LABERGE, VICTORIAVILLE, QMJHL, C
PATRIK LAINE, TAPPARA, FINLAND, RW
MAXIME LAJOIE, SWIFT CURRENT, WHL, D
RYAN LINDGREN, USA U-18, USHL, D
LINUS LINDSTROM, SKELLEFTEA JR., SWEDEN-JR., C
WILLIAM LOCKWOOD, USA U-18, USHL, RW
GRIFFIN LUCE, USA U-18, USHL, D
JOSHUA MAHURA, RED DEER, WHL, D
OTTO MAKINEN, TAPPARA JR., FINLAND-JR., C
BECK MALENSTYN, CALGARY, WHL, LW
ADAM MASCHERIN, KITCHENER, OHL, LW
AUSTON MATTHEWS, ZURICH, SWISS, C
MITCHELL MATTSON, GRAND RAPIDS, HIGH-MN, C
CHARLES MCAVOY, BOSTON UNIVERSITY, H-EAST, D
MICHAEL MCLEOD, MISSISSAUGA, OHL, C
GRAHAM MCPHEE, USA U-18, USHL, LW
VICTOR METE, LONDON, OHL, D
KEATON MIDDLETON, SAGINAW, OHL, D
CAMERON MORRISON, YOUNGSTOWN, USHL, LW
JACOB MOVERARE, HV 71 JR., SWEDEN-JR., D
BRETT MURRAY, CARLETON PLACE, CCHL, LW
MARKUS NIEMELAINEN, SAGINAW, OHL, D
ALEXANDER NYLANDER, MISSISSAUGA, OHL, LW
TYLER PARSONS, LONDON, OHL, G
ANDREW PEEKE, GREEN BAY, USHL, D
CLIFF PU, LONDON, OHL, RW
JESSE PULJUJARVI, KARPAT, FINLAND, RW
JOSEPH RAAYMAKERS, SAULT STE. MARIE, OHL, G
TAYLOR RADDYSH, ERIE, OHL, RW
TY RONNING, VANCOUVER, WHL, RW
GERMAN RUBTSOV, TEAM RUSSIA U18, RUSSIA-JR., C
JORDAN SAMBROOK, ERIE, OHL, D
ZACHARY SAWCHENKO, MOOSE JAW, WHL, G
MIKHAIL SERGACHEV, WINDSOR, OHL, D
GIVANI SMITH, GUELPH, OHL, RW
OTTO SOMPPI, HALIFAX, QMJHL, C
JORDAN STALLARD, CALGARY, WHL, C
LOGAN STANLEY, WINDSOR, OHL, D
SAM STEEL, REGINA, WHL, C
RILEY STILLMAN, OSHAWA, OHL, D
SIMON STRANSKY, PRINCE ALBERT, WHL, LW
GABRIEL SYLVESTRE, SHAWINIGAN, QMJHL, D
TAGE THOMPSON, U OF CONNECTICUT, H-EAST, C
MATTHEW TKACHUK, LONDON, OHL, LW
RILEY TUFTE, BLAINE, HIGH-MN, LW
EETU TUULOLA, HPK JR., FINLAND-JR., RW
CARSEN TWARYNSKI, CALGARY, WHL, LW
DYLAN WELLS, PETERBOROUGH, OHL, G
JOSEPH WOLL, USA U-18, USHL, G
MAX ZIMMER, CHICAGO, USHL, LW
Pete Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers won the 4th overall selection in the 2016 Draft at the NHL Draft Lottery on April 30 in Toronto.
Don't be shocked nor surprised if and when Chiarelli trades out of #4 and moves down in the draft in Buffalo.
On Monday, Chiarelli candidly revealed on "Oilers Now" that 4-5 teams have contacted him about trading the #4 overall pick.
Chiarelli desperately needs to get his mitts on a top pair right shot D-man.
The ante was upped on Tuesday when NY Islanders D Travis Hamonic renounced his demand for a trade. Hamonic is a righty and he was in hot demand by several NHL GMs, including Chiarelli.
All bets are off now.
Chiarelli said that there is a “real, legitimate chance” he trades his first-round pick.
Buffalo's Tim Murray, the owner of the 8th overall pick, is in need of a scoring winger to play alongside Jack Eichel and Samson Reinhart. Murray fancies London Knights bomber Matt Tkachuck, who has close family ties to the Sabres through former D Teppo Numminen, who is one of his father's best friends and former teammates. Keith Tkachuk and Numminen were teammates in Phoenix and Winnipeg.
Chiarelli is attempting to replicate the very same model that paid successful dividends to the Boston Bruins in their Stanley Cup winning season of 2010-11. The Bruins played heavy hockey and had a D corps that was mobile, agile, and at times hostile.
Tim Murray has former first round draft choice (23rd overall 2010) Mark Pysyk to use as a trade chip for the 4th overall pick. Pysyk, a slick skating right handed puck mover, is a QB both 5-v-5 and on the PP. He is a cerebral D who makes a great first pass to the streaking forwards breaking out of the zone. Pysyk hails from Sherwood Park, Alberta. He played his junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Pysyk will have a tough time slotting into Buffalo's top four D group next season as Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian already hold down the #1 and #2 right D jobs for the Sabres.
The Sabres also have right D prospect Anthony Florentino to offer to sweeten a deal for the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Chiarelli will remember Florentino from his days as Bruins GM. Florentino plays for Providence College in the highly competitive Hockey East. Florentino plays a physical, complete game. He has the size (6'1 and 210 lbs.) to command respect on the blue line. Florentino was Buffalo's 5th round pick in 2013.
Tim Murray signed college free agent Casey Nelson from Minnesota State University in March. Nelson is a righty and projects ahead of Florentino and fellow righty Will Borgen on Buffalo's organizational depth chart.
Jimmy Vesey is going to be in hot demand come August 15.
Thats when the 2016 Hobey Baker winner will be free to sign with whichever NHL team that he chooses to.
Vesey told the Boston Herald that the Boston Bruins will be on his short list of teams that he prefers to play for.
“I think the Bruins will definitely be on my list of teams,” said the 22-year-old Vesey.
Vesey participated in the "Friend of Harvard Hockey" event honoring the school’s four Hobey Baker winners: Mark Fusco (1983), Scott Fusco (1985), Lane MacDonald (1989) and Vesey (2016).
What is Vesey looking for in his ideal NHL employer?
“I’ll look at what a team has in terms of NHL roster, and also what it has in the prospect pool,” Vesey said.
“I’ll also be looking at the coaches and what style of play is going to fit me the best. The city, definitely. There’s a lot that’s going to go into it. I’m excited about it, and I can’t wait to see where I’m going to end up.”
Add the Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs to Vesey's list, too.
In my own humble opinion, I don't see Vesey signing with the Bruins.
Just because he is the hometown kid doesn't make it a 3 foot tap in putt for him to play for the Bruins. If coaching, style of play and prospects in the pipeline really matter to Vesey, he may want to shop around. The B's a good, however, Vesey can find a better fit that checks all of his personal wish list boxes elsewhere.
If Vesey is looking for stability in coaching, Claude Julien isn't exactly on solid ground. There was a time less than a month ago when Julien was rumored to be fired for the 400th time in the past four seasons. Bruins GM Don Sweeney spared Julien the public humiliation of firing him after the Bruins failed to make the playoffs. To say that Julien is on thin ice right now is an understatement. A slow start to next season will land Julien on the unemployment line.
Vesey isn't about to sign up to play for multiple head coaches if he signs with Boston. Unless Julien gets fired and replaced by Vesey's college head coach and former Bruin Ted Donato.
The Bruins have an impressive pipeline of young talent featuring: Matt Grelczyk, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Zboril, and Malcolm Subban.
The Buffalo Sabres offer strength in all of Vesey's core competencies.
Dan Bylsma is a Cup winning mentor and teacher. He preaches north hockey and pace. Bylsma will likely slot Vesey on Buffalo's top trio alongside Jack Eichel and Samson Reinhart.
The Sabres' prospect pipeline is thick with blue chip prospects like Eichel, Reinhart. Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Justin Bailey, Hudson Fasching, Eric Cornel, Evan Rodrigues, Vaclav Karabacek, Cal Petersen, Linus Ullmark, Nick Baptiste, Will Borgen, Anthony Florentino and others.
Tim Murray has 21 picks in the 2016 and 2017 NHL Drafts, including 12 at the Buffalo draft. Murray and his scouts will aggressively re-stock the warehouse shelves. Murray will also have $26-$28 million in salary cap space to invest in re-signing his UFAS and recruiting new franchise pillars on the UFA market. For example, Steven Stamkos or Kyle Okposo.
Vesey would fit right in to Buffalo's Next Chapter.
In Toronto, Mike Babcock piloted the tanking mission to the first overall pick in the draft. The Leafs may use the #1 pick on Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine. Babcock also has blue chippers Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Tobias Lindberg, Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, and Nikita Soshnikov.