The annual NHL Scouting Combine is set to take place next week, with 109 – approximately three-and-a-half rounds worth – of top prospects in attendance. Of those participating, NHL.com’s Mike Morreale reports that 16 will belong to the U.S. National Team Development Program. Admittedly, the USNTDP is unique; an effort to bring together some of the top American junior-age players for a hybrid junior and collegiate schedule creates a very loaded lineup. Still, never before have so many players – nearly 15% of the group – from one team been invited to the same draft combine, highlighting what promises to be an exciting class of U.S. players.
Beyond just presumptive top pick Jack Hughes, forwards Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, John Beecher, Judd Caulfield, and Patrick Moynihan, defensemen Cam York, Alex Vlasic, Henry Thrun, Marshall Warren, Domenick Fensore, and Drew Helleson, and goaltenders Spencer Knight and Cameron Rowe are expected to be in attendance. Of that group, many rankings and mock would suggest at least Hughes, Turcotte, Zegras, Boldy, Caufield, York, and Knight are near locks as first-round picks, with the others not far behind. Several other USNTDP standouts not invited to the combine will nevertheless still be drafted as well. It is a truly incredible class that may stand the test of time.
The combine kicks off on Friday, May 31st with media availability for the “Top Prospects”, as designated by the league and Central Scouting. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler reports that this group of six includes Hughes, Turcotte, presumptive second overall pick Kaapo Kakko, top defense prospect Bowen Byram, and Canadian centers Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach. On Saturday, June 1st, all combine participants will undergo fitness testing throughout the day, while teams will have an opportunity to meet with prospects one-on-one as well. With the World Championships and Memorial Cup both wrapping up this coming weekend, the Scouting Combine will be the final time that teams can evaluate draft prospects in a live setting before the NHL Entry Draft on June 21st.