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Behind the scenes at the Combine

Tuesday, 06.17.2008 / 10:08 AM / Features
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Behind the scenes at the Combine
So, what exactly is a Draft Combine? Glad you asked. NHL Central Scouting put together the extravaganza that gave NHL teams the chance to see 107 prospects up close and personal.
Prospects such as Russia's Nikita Filatov go through a series of testing at the 2008 Draft Combine in Toronto, an event that takes a lot of planning by Nathan Ogilvie- Harris of NHL Central Scouting to make it successful.
So just how do you go about gathering 107 of the best prospects for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and representatives from 30 NHL teams in one place for the NHL Scouting Combine?

It takes a lot of phone calls, a lot of coffee and a lot of late nights.

It took that and more for Nathan Ogilvie-Harris, the coordinator for NHL Central Scouting, and assistant Luke McGoey to pull off the event, held May 26-31 at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel in Toronto.

Basically, it's a year's worth of planning crammed into a one-month timetable.

"The planning of the Combine starts once the final (draft ranking) list goes out," Oilvie-Harris said. "This year, the list was released April 24. "We go ahead, myself and Luke McGoey, with starting to compile invitations and contact agents."

The list of committed players was then forwarded to the teams, to gauge interest in setting up interviews. Teams could request to interview as many or as few players as they wanted, all in 20-minute blocks.

"The list of interviewees goes out to the teams and they return it to us," Ogilvie-Harris said. "They select which players they would like to interview and our responsibility is to schedule them in over the four-day period in order to accommodate their requests.

"Selective teams just come in for two days and interview 30 players, some teams want to interview 90 players."

That's where the juggling act begins.

Travel arrangements and interview schedules had to be combined to make sure every player was able to get to every interview. That included flying in players from seven different countries on two continents.

And with the players coming over from Europe, translators were needed and their schedules needed to be coordinated with the players' interviews.

"We had eight Russian players this year," Ogilvie-Harris said. "We have three translators come in and what we do is pair the translators with the kids, so they get to know them, they go to their room. They help them through their interviews and try to give the teams an insight into their personality."

It wasn't just the European players that caused scheduling nightmares. Any player who wanted to maintain his NCAA eligibility -- including U.S. college and high school players, as well as Junior A or Junior B players who want to play NCAA hockey -- could only attend the Combine for 48 hours at the NHL's cost.

So for them, all their Combine activity -- interviews, medical testing and fitness testing -- had to be crammed into two days.

"The hardest thing is the phone ringing," Ogilvie-Harris said. "You have 100 players, you're trying to get travel arrangements arranged back and forth, but the team interviews also pose a challenge, especially with the 48-hour guys, where you have to fit everything into a small window."

While overseeing the interview process and keeping everything running and on time, Ogilvie-Harris and McGoey stayed in contact with the hotel staff to make sure rooms were arranged for the medical and fitness testing. First, Central Scouting's basement office was transformed into a de facto doctor's office.

In the main ballroom, where the fitness testing took place, the room had to be arranged to give personnel from York University's Human Performance Lab, which coordinated the event, the space needed to conduct the exams, plus room for scouts, managers and media to watch.

"What we do is schedule (the players) in blocks of eight," Ogilvie-Harris said. "The first block goes into the medical room and then it's like a production line."

And keeping the Combine production going were the combined efforts of Ogilvie-Harris and McGoey, who were assisted this year by scouts Chris Edwards, Nelson White and Al Jensen.

E.J. McGuire, the director of Central Scouting, is the titular head of the Combine. But as any good general knows, it takes good lieutenants to keep the troops moving in the right direction, and he has no problem giving out compliments.

"They (Ogilvie-Harris and McGoey) were working deep into the evenings, when I was wandering off to NHL games to be series supervisor," McGuire said. "It's hundreds and hundreds of hours (of work), and it's the full-time job of Nathan and Luke to pull it off. And that's what necessitates the late-night candle burning on some nights.

"The (success of the) administrative task is a tribute to their organization."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer

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