Two Tips audition for the NHL

  • By Nick Patterson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, June 10, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

Zach Hamill’s had a busy schedule.

His travels the past 10 days have taken him from Toronto to St. Louis to Boston, with stops at his home in Port Coquitlam, B.C., in between. It’s an itinerary that resembles that of a jet-setting business tycoon more than that of a junior hockey player.

But such is life when one is in demand.

The Everett Silvertips star is considered one of the top prospects for this year’s NHL draft, and ever since last weekend’s NHL draft combine he’s been highly sought by NHL teams.

“It’s been pretty wild,” said Hamill, who was flown to NHL cities by a pair of teams for personal workouts following the combine.

Hamill was one of two Silvertips to attend the NHL draft combine, which took place May 30-June 2 in Toronto. Defenseman Taylor Ellington was also one of the 106 players who attended the combine, although he wasn’t able to participate in the physical drills because of injury.

Hamill is considered a probable mid-first-round pick in the draft, which takes place June 22-23 in Columbus, Ohio. Ellington is slated for somewhere around the third round.

And the draft combine provided them the opportunity to state their cases before the entire NHL.

“It was good,” Hamill said about his experience at the combine. “After last year (when Everett had five players invited) the guys told me what it was like, so I knew what to expect. I had a lot of interviews and the testing was tough, but it was a positive experience.”

Ellington, who isn’t 100-percent recovered from a neck injury sustained toward the end of the regular season in a game at Seattle, was only able to participate in the interview portion of the combine.

“I was actually cleared to do testing in Toronto, but I had a note from the doctors back here,” said Ellington, who noted he’s been feeling a lot better physically. “I really wish I could have participated in the fitness testing. I could have shown that I’m a hard worker, and I like to train.”

Despite sitting out the fitness training, the trip to Toronto was still valuable for Ellington, who was interviewed by 16 different teams.

“It was a neat experience because the scouts interview you and you see what they think of you and what you need to improve on,” Ellington said. “Each team was different. Some teams told me to be a two-way defenseman, others said to work on the strengths I already have.

“It was all about meeting people and learning what they think I need to do better. I’ll take it to heart for sure.”

Ellington said he felt a good connection during his interview with the New Jersey Devils. He said the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs also showed significant interest.

Meanwhile, Hamill ran the full gauntlet at the combine. It began with a physical, then was followed by 18 different fitness tests. Most of those tests were standard, such as measuring the players’ ability to do push-ups, sit-ups and the bench press.

However, the most notorious of the fitness tests are the two stationary bike tests. The first is the windgate test, during which the player goes full-out for 30 seconds with the resistance being steadily increased. Then there’s the VO2 test, during which the players have to maintain a steady pace as long as possible with the resistance being varied. During both tests the players received shouted encouragement from several aides standing around the bike, and both leave the players exhausted.

“The windgate was pretty tough, then they give you a half-hour to catch your breath before the VO2,” Hamill explained. “That was not fun.

“I thought I did pretty good on the VO2 test,” added Hamill, who had a chance to practice the tests two weeks before the combine. “All the other tests were pretty good, I was about average, hopefully above.”

But Hamill’s work wasn’t done with the combine. He went directly from Toronto to St. Louis to meet with the St. Louis Blues for further evaluation. Then after returning home, two days later he was back on a plane headed to Boston to go through a similar process for the Bruins.

In St. Louis he was joined by several other players, including fellow WHLers Karl Alzner (Calgary), Colton Gillies (Saskatoon) and Brandon Sutter (Red Deer). The Blues pick ninth, 24th and 26th overall in the first round.

In Boston he was joined by two other players, Seattle’s Thomas Hickey and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playmaker Angelo Esposito. Boston holds the eighth overall selection.

“I went to St. Louis and they showed me around the city and rink,” Hamill said. “They treated me professionally and it was a nice city. It was the same in Boston, they showed a lot of professionalism while giving tours of everything.

“In St. Louis they did fitness testing,” Hamill added. “It wasn’t like the combine, it wasn’t nearly as hard, but they had me do sprints and some shoulder and back testing. Boston was a little tougher. They had me do the bench, shuttle run and a bunch of other stuff.”

Now the evaluation process is over, and all that’s left is the waiting game.

Said Hamill: “It’s going to be a nervous couple of weeks.”

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