Movin’ on up

  • By Nick Patterson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, June 11, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

EVERETT – If the rumor mill can be believed, then the stock of the Everett Silvertips headed into the NHL draft is on the rise.

Everett sent five players to the NHL scouting combine on May 30-June 3 in Toronto, and the whisper in the winds suggests the Tips who attended helped their causes.

“The words I’ve heard are that our guys had incredible combines,” Everett director of business operations Zoran Rajcic said. “I haven’t heard anything concrete, but the scouts I’ve spoken to said our guys had really good performances. There’s a lot of interest in our guys.”

Everett forwards Peter Mueller, Ondrej Fiala and Brady Calla, defenseman Graham Potuer and goaltender Leland Irving were among 115 players invited to the combine, which gave the 30 NHL teams a chance to see the players up close and personal in advance of the draft.

“I thought it was a good experience,” Irving said. “You kind of get a little idea of what will happen come June 24. I’m anxious to see how everything plays out.”

In its three year history Everett has never had a player selected in the NHL draft, and the five players invited to the combine were the first Tips to receive that invitation. However, Everett was already expected to have a significant impact on the draft, which takes place June 24 in Vancouver, B.C.

Everett players have been all over the various scouting rankings. Mueller, who was ranked eighth in the recently released McKeen’s Hockey final rankings, is a virtual lock for the top 10. Irving (27th in McKeen’s) and Fiala (44th) are thought to be late first rounders or early second rounders. Calla (99th) and Potuer (127th) are slated for the third or fourth rounds.

However, solid showings at the combine may push some of those players higher.

“I thought I did all right,” Mueller said of his combine performance. “Those are always tough because you do different things than you do on regular days. But It was fun.” Much like the more-hyped NFL combine, the NHL combine doesn’t involve any game-type evaluation – not once did the players don their skates. Instead, the players were measured and tested in various areas of strength and fitness.

The players had their measurements taken (height, weight, body fat), their upper-body strength tested (bench press, push-ups) and lower-body strength tested (vertical and horizontal jumps).

Perhaps the most notorious of the physical tests were the stationary-bike tests. The players were run through two different bike tests: the VO2 max test and the windgate test. The VO2 max test, designed to measure a person’s maximum aerobic capacity, had the players ride for a significant length of time with the difficulty gradually increased until the player was unable to continue. The windgate test, designed to measure a person’s explosive ability, had the players pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Such is the intensity of the bike tests that a few of the participants lost their lunch following the tests.

“Those were tough,” Mueller said. “Afterward you can’t really see straight because you pedalled so hard. But it’s what you’ve got to do.”

Perhaps the most-important part of the combine was the interview process. Each NHL team was heavily represented by scouts and management, including most general managers. Each player was run through a gauntlet of 30-minute interviews with the scouts and general managers of the teams that expressed interest. Mueller went through interviews with 22 different teams.

Rajcic said he received positive feedback regarding the Everett players’ interviews.

“It’s refreshing to have our guys doing well,” Rajcic said. “It helps show the structure and integrity of our organzation,”

Rajcic added. “From day one we wanted to be competitive and give our players the best chance for going to the next level. After three years we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor.”

Whether the Tips helped themselves or not at the combine, they at least survived the final hurdle before the draft.

“I wasn’t nervous until I got to the banquet room where it was set up,” Irving said. “They had all the tents there, and there were a lot of scouts and reporters and TV cameras. It was a little intimidating, but you just go in and do the tests and try not to worry about anything else. I worked hard, so I was happy when the testing was completed because I think I did well.”

And it’s possible the Tips will see themselves moving up the draft board as a result.

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