(Buffalo) The NHL evaluation camp ended on Saturday with a series of physical tests, each as painful as the next.
But since the start of the week, the 106 hopefuls invited to the city where President McKinley breathed his last were touring the teams. Each of the 32 clubs occupied a box at the KeyBank Center where the staff welcomed the players for twenty-minute interviews.
Once again this year, the questions posed by the Canadiens caught the eye. A few players mentioned situations that were presented to them, and to which they had to react.
“I was told: you are queuing at the counter, two old ladies are in front of you and someone is passing them. What are you doing ? said forward Alex Pharand, a Sudbury Wolves forward.
His response: “I said I was going to defend me and the two old ladies!” “, assured the Franco-Ontarian.
“Another player was asked, ‘You have to shoot down a submarine and your friends are sinking. What will you do ?” »
Étienne Morin, of the Moncton Wildcats, also had to explain his role in the fictitious ATM scandal. But he knew somewhat what to expect since Dr. David Scott, the Canadiens’ sports psychology advisor and the one who usually asks these types of questions during CH interviews, also works with the Wildcats.
Morin was also ready for the famous animal question. For several years now, the Habs have been asking players which animal represents them best, on and off the ice. But the word has been spreading over the years and several hopefuls have told us that they come with a prepared response.
Morin had done his research and so spoke of ants, known for their ability to lift loads heavier than themselves, as well as dolphins, “feared by sharks because of their intelligence”. Another player said he was a mother bear.
“Last year, 80% of players said lions or tigers. This year, it was more varied, ”Canadian general manager Kent Hughes said during his Thursday press briefing.
If the CH wants spontaneous answers, we will have to think of other questions for next year.
Hughes was out of town for the day of testing, having left Buffalo on Thursday. A few GMs – Bill Armstrong (Coyotes), Kevyn Adams (Sabres), Mike Grier (Sharks) and Jarmo Kekäläinen (Blue Jackets) – were spotted, but the majority weren’t.
Still at the CH, it was the co-director of amateur recruitment Martin Lapointe and the scout Ben Shutron who were in the stands of the Sabers training center. On the arena floor, Adam Douglas (Director of Sport Science and Performance) and Dale Lablans, Fitness Coach, represented the team.
Among the main prospects, Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson have been exempted from physical tests.
The two attackers, generally expected in the top 4 of the auction, participated in the World Championship in Finland and Latvia, a tournament which ended on May 28. They then traveled to Vegas, for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals earlier this week, before landing in Buffalo on Tuesday. In short, they weren’t exactly in the best shape to offer their best effort.
“If I had had time to prepare, I would have. But I come from Europe and if I do the tests, I want to be at the top of my game,” Fantilli said.
For the curious, Connor Bedard went through the exercises, and he ranked in the top 10 in only one test: that of Wingate (9th place). “I’m a player like any other and I haven’t played for a month and a half,” he said.
In addition to the interviews, the teams will sometimes invite hopefuls to dinner.
Of course, caution should be exercised before extrapolating scenarios. A dinner does not mean a selection, which we learned last year when the CH had invited Logan Cooley and Shane Wright to have a bite to eat, to finally fish out Juraj Slafkovsky.
Here are the appointments that we were able to confirm over the interviews: