Growing up in Windsor, ON, draft prospect Hunter Smith got an up-close view of an Edmonton Oiler as he was ripping up the Ontario Hockey League.
In three seasons with the Windsor Spitfires, Taylor Hall posted 284 regular-season points and 76 in the playoffs. It’s a big reason why he was the number one overall pick in 2010 by the Oilers. Smith witnessed Hall’s reign in the OHL.
“I think I was at every game,” the 18-year-old winger said. “My family had season tickets and I saw him score a lot of goals. He’s electric player and would obviously be a great player to have on your team one day.”
Smith posted 40 points (16-24-40) this season for Windsor and rocketed his draft stock after slipping through the draft last year. He is a towering winger, standing at close to 6-foot-7 and is an intriguing prospect after his breakout season.
Smith says he doesn’t know where he may go in the draft. He is just going with the flow.
“Big guys, I’m not going to shrink any. I don’t really have any expectations. I’m kind of going there with an open mind and whatever happens, happens because I over thought my OHL draft and it didn’t go as planned. Right now I’m just trying to let it happen.”
Many of the top prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft will be put to the ultimate test this week in an effort to impress potential future employers at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto.
The primary purpose of the Combine, which runs May 26-31, is to aid all 30 NHL teams in the player selection process. NHL Central Scouting invited 119 players from North America and Europe to take part.
The Combine will allow NHL scouts and general managers an opportunity to interview as many prospects as they wish during a five-day period from May 26-30.
The 2014 NHL Scouting Combine will incorporate three new fitness tests for the top prospects in attendance on May 31 at Toronto International Centre.
Replacing push-ups, the push-pull station and seated medicine ball throw at this year's event will be overhand pull-ups, single leg squat and a pro agility test.
"The NHL strength coaches group were consulted during a review of the NHL Combine and their group suggested to remove those three tests and replace them with testing that is more dynamic [more moving body weight] versus static [stationary] tests," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "The 30 NHL teams were polled on whether they supported these testing modifications and the majority approved for us to implement them at the 2014 Combine."
The overhand pull-ups will require each player to perform a maximum number of consecutive repetitions with the correct technique while pausing for one second at the top and bottom of the movement. Partial pull-ups will not be counted.
The single leg squats evaluate unilateral strength, balance and full body coordination. Each player must perform five successive repetitions on each leg. Each squat is worth 15 points with a maximum score of 75 (per leg).
The pro agility test will rate multi-directional speed, agility and whole body reaction, plus control. In a timed test, players are required to sprint 15 feet to the right and touch a line with their right hand, sprint 30 feet to the left and touch a line with their left hand, and sprint 15 feet to the right and over the line to finish
Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer had Oilers Head Scout Stu MacGregor on Oilers Now Monday afternoon to chat about the combine and draft. MacGregor said there are about six players involved in the discussion for the Oilers, who select third overall.
Having backup plans serves teams well in case they do some moving up and down the chart.
“There’s about six players that will be involved in that discussion,” he said. “And you have to be prepared for moving and if the pick moves or not moves or if you make a decision if you’re able to obtain another pick so you’re also building yourself for not only the number three overall pick but you’re building yourself for throughout the rest of the draft. The number has to be kind of at six or seven just in case there is some type of movement. You may get an opportunity or an offer that’s just incredible that you have to think about and be able to weigh the options and weigh what you’re getting in return for a possible move from your draft position.”
MacGregor says the scouting team has seen the top 4-6 prospects about 40-50 times as a unit and he personally has seen the players 12-15 times depending on what tournaments and games they’ve played in.
Edmontonoilers.com and Oilers TV will be on location in Toronto for the combine this week.
Oilers Head Scout Stu MacGregor was on Oilers Now with Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Monday afternoon and talked about the upcoming combine and draft. MacGregor says the team will interview 82 players in all at the combine.
In the interviews, the scouting staff and management team will get a better feel for the type of person they might be getting should they select that player in the draft. MacGregor says there isn’t much moving up the draft board for players when it comes to how they did in the interviews.
“You’re basically getting to know a person or a young man in this case and find out just a little bit more about them,” MacGregor said. “It gives you a little bit more of a comfort with what they’re like and what they’re about a little bit, find out something about their background. There may be a specific incident that had happened during the season that you’re interested to see what their response was to a situation and just see what they were thinking at that particular time or just what they learned from an event that happened during the season.”
On the flip side, MacGregor also said they can’t hurt their stock much either. At the most, a bad interview may cost a player just a few spots.
“I think it could alter things,” MacGregor said. “Your question was could he dramatically change his position and no he can’t. But yes he could possibly move himself a spot or two or this or that. It’s like any interview. If you like someone, you’re going to want to have that person working for you or within your organization. It’s important for the player to be able to present himself in a positive image as well as being able to provide the skills that are necessary to obtain that position that they’re applying for. It’s very similar to a job interview.”
Edmontonoilers.com and Oilers TV will be on location in Toronto for the combine this week.
The second annual Dirty Birds Charity Hockey Tournament raised a total of $100,212.12 in support of the Neurosurgery Kids Fund this weekend.
“Once again the dirty birds came through in a big way,” Oilers TV Host Tom Gazzola said. “It’s unbelievable to see the group managed to raise over $100,000. And to be a part of something special like this that benefits children being treated at the Stollery is an honour.”
Gazzola and edmontonoilers.com’s head writer Chris Wescott participated in the tournament on Saturday along with local media personalities Dustin Nielson (TSN1260), Ryan Jespersen (Breakfast TV) and Min Dhariwal (CBC). The purpose of the event is to raise funds and awareness for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
“The Dirty Birds put together a first-class event and it shows with just how much money they were able to raise,” Wescott said. “It was an amazing weekend to come together with a group of great people in support of a worthy cause and to meet some of those kids was very special.”
Chris Branco, a member of the Dirty Birds men’s league team and a lead organizer of the tournament was filled with emotions following the event.
“To go from a goal of $15,000 in our first year and raising $68,000, to breaking $100,000 in our second year is truly a dream come true,” Branco said. “It is a small four-team tournament with many big hearts. This moment makes it worth the battle of three games in four hours and four games in a day. These kids battle their entire life and if you asked me to do it all over again I would say, “When is puck drop?”
LONDON, ON - Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was asked if he felt his team had confidence knowing they had outplayed and outshot Val d'Or on Tuesday. Laxdal played down that comment.
"If any team has confidence, it's probably Val d'Or because they beat us in overtime. And that's been their M.O. all season. Bibeau's been outstanding for them. They hang around in a game and then they find a way to win," he said.
"We had a lot of shots but we didn't generate a ton of Grade A scoring chances so it's something to try to adjust to tonight."
Laxdal added that the QMJHL netminder Antoine Bibeau has been lights out when his workload is heavy.
"Someone said an interesting stat the other day, when Bibeau stops over 50 shots they haven't lost a game. So when I was looking at the clock going into (double) overtime, we saw that 50-shot mark and I went 'ooh'.
"It's not about the shot count, it's the Grade A scoring chances we have to do a better job on. And it's shot selection. We've got a game plan in mind here so hopefully we adhere to that tonight."
LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings are in familiar territory tonight as they take on the Val d'Or Foreurs with an opportunity to advance to Sunday's Memorial Cup Final against Guelph with a win.
"It's an elimination game. And like both teams, we started preparing yesterday. It makes it interesting for both teams because we played each other on Tuesday night. It's a huge game. They know us pretty well, we know them pretty well and I think it will be a great game," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal this morning.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart talked about the team's ability to draw on past experiences, such as Game 7 in the WHL Final against Portland.
"It happened in Portland, Game 6 (we lost in overtime) and then came back to win Game 7 the next night. I think just the whole year, not just that series, we came back really strong. We've always had a good response to adversity and we can expect the same tonight," Reinhart remarked.
Curtis Lazar said the playoff feel isn't there but the ability to draw on their experience will still help.
"The intensity is there, but it's nothing like the playoffs. We have experience playing in front of large crowds at Rexall and Portland but it's a one shot opportunity. You have to capitalize on it," said Lazar, adding that Val d'Or has some experience in big games as well.
"Our Game 7 experience is going is really going to help us out but in saying that, they have a couple of Game 7 experiences too. It's going to be a really interesting storyline to follow because both teams know how to deal with the pressure and the urgency so it's going to be really cool to see how it plays out."
Val d'Or's experience comes with a 4-3 Game 7 win over Baie Comeau in the QMJHL Final and a 3-2 win over Halifax in the previous round. Both wins came on the road and also came after winning Game 6 to force the deciding game.
LONDON, ON - Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was asked how Edmonton and Val d'Or compares when you look at the lineups.
"You've got some great match-ups in this game. You look at the tenders, you look at the back-ends, the top nine or top 12 forwards. It makes for a great game tonight," he said, adding that he hopes to match Reinhart up with Val d'Or sniper Anthony Mantha.
"He knows the job that he's got to do and I'm sure that Mantha knows he's going to see Reinhart quite a bit tonight but they've got last change so I'm sure Mario (Durocher, Val d'Or head coach) will be working that change as much as he can."
Mantha has 82 goals in 84 games this season when regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup are all factored in. Reinhart and Mantha were teammates at the World Juniors for Canada so both know each other well.
"Everyone in that tournament became close with one another. I can't really say I know all his secrets, he's a pretty crafty guy. He's a big, powerful forward and has skill and speed. He's hard to contain. I'm just going to try and keep him to the outside and take away space," Reinhart said, adding that he's not sure how much he'll be able to see of Mantha given that the Foreurs have last change by virtue of being second in the round robin.
"They get last change so we'll have to see how that goes but I think that's what the match-up is going to look like. But whether I'm out there or a different line, we've got confidence in all our D-men."
Laxdal said that even if Associate Coach Steve Hamilton, who controls defence match-ups, is not able to get Reinhart out there for whatever reason, he has confidence his team will be able to respond to the junior star's scoring prowess.
"We've got some other guys who can step up. For us, we need our top six players to be our best players tonight and obviously Tristan Jarry's got to have an outstanding game," he said. "If we don't get that match-up, Dysin Mayo and Cody Corbett have done a great job all year. And we have three lines that can play the Mantha line."
Laxdal added that Val d'Or is more than just a one-man team.
"If you deal with the Mantha line, you've got the young kids coming back. The (Anthony) Richards, and those kids can score."
Despite not playing all that well in any of the three round-robin games, Val d'Or finished with the second-best record and as a result will earn the distinction of being the home team tonight.
"It's huge for us because we played two series in seven games in the Q and we need some rest," said Richard, after scoring the double-OT winner to defeat the Oil Kings on Tuesday. "That two days off is huge for us."
It's no secret that Val d'Or depends heavily on the play of goaltender Antoine Bibeau. He has faced 50 or more shots in both of his team's wins.
"Antoine is just awesome," Foreurs captain Samuel Henley said. "He keeps us in the game every time. He keeps everyone calm in the room. He's such a good goalie, a good teammate and a good player. We probably wouldn't have won the game without him."