As far as the testing went, several of the shorter players stood out positively. Eden Prairie High School defenseman Nick Leddy was one of the most impressive in the vertical leap, and he had an excellent wing span for his size. Not the broadest of players, Leddy was finely tuned, with one of the lowest percentages of body fat among all attendees. Leddy also showed his strength — his right hand grip rivaled that of players 4 to 5 inches taller.
Another Friday standout was NTDP forward Kyle Palmieri. One of the shortest players invited to the Combine, Palmieri was among the strongest. With a very developed physique, Palmieri did extremely well in those tests that measured strength. He led all attendees in number of push-ups, pull strength, and the vertical jump. He was also among the top five in push strength and the leg power tests.
Although both Leddy and Palmieri created significant buzz among the scouts and GMs in attendance on Friday, nothing at this Combine created as much stir and attendance as Friday afternoon’s testing of the two top prospects in this year’s draft — John Tavares and Victor Hedman. It has been awhile since the name of the No. 1 pick in the draft was as uncertain as it is in 2009, and there did seem to be excitement about the comparison between their performances. Of the two, Hedman was more impressive in his testing and his physique, however, Tavares did hold his own. It is still not clear which of the two would be chosen first overall by the New York Islanders later this month.
On Saturday the testing room was not as crowded as on Friday, but some of the performances on the testing were just as impressive. One of the better performers was defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. A top player in the recent U18 World Championships, Ekman-Larsson had one of the best scores on the wingate, which measures aerobic fitness. Now considered a top-ten, and perhaps even a top-five, prospect in this year’s draft, Ekman-Larsson is a player to watch. Also moving up in the scouts’ eyes and not hurt by his testing was Drummondville blueliner Dmitri Kulikov. With very broad shoulders, and a highly developed physique, this offensive defenseman’s stock has been rising since the U20 WJCs in December. His performance at the Combine showed strength and good aerobic fitness.