By Lesley Dawson
It may be summer, but it hasn’t been a vacation for four Winterhawks players.
Chase De Leo, Keegan Iverson, Alex Schoenborn, and Dominic Turgeon have been preparing for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, which takes place next weekend in Philadelphia.
Just two weeks after the Winterhawks’ season came to a close on May 12, the four prospects flew to Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine where they underwent rigorous fitness testing, medical examinations, and interviewed with numerous NHL teams.
The fitness section of the Combine included weightlifting tests such as bench press and pull-up tests, and two grueling bike tests — the Wingate test and the VO2 max test.
“The VO2 is the toughest because you have to have a nose clamp and tube down your throat making it hard to breathe, but you have to go as hard as you can,” De Leo said about the test, which measures the athletes’ aerobic power and endurance.
Turgeon and Schoenborn both agreed that the Wingate test, which requires the athletes pedal as hard as they can on an exercise bike for thirty seconds, presented the biggest challenge.
Despite the difficulty of these tests, the players feel that the length of the Winterhawks’ season didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on their athletic performance at the Combine.
“I could’ve done a bit better on the testing if I’d had a little bit of time to prepare for it, but our trainer Rich Campbell does a good job throughout the year of keeping us in shape,” De Leo said. “I think it went well and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.”
Turgeon, who sits at #97 in the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for the 2014 Draft, agrees that even though they didn’t have much time to lift weights, the long playoff run ensured that the players were in the best possible condition for the fitness testing.
“For me, it was an unbelievable experience. I’ve never really done anything like that. I had a really great time there and learned a lot,” Turgeon said after meeting with over twenty teams.
Winterhawks who’d gone through the Combine testing in previous years, like Seth Jones (fourth overall to Nashville in 2013) and Matt Dumba (seventh overall to Minnesota in 2012), advised the four players to not only be ready for the physical testing, but also to maintain a confident presence in their interviews with the NHL clubs.
“At the Combine, my teammates told me to be myself and everything will go well,” Iverson said. “As for the Draft process, they told me to be excited for when my name gets called, and be ready to work after.”
Iverson, who is listed at #85 in Central Scouting’s final rankings, and Schoenborn, who is ranked at #78, each interviewed with over a dozen NHL teams at the Combine.
“Going there was nerve-wracking. I was excited, anxious, and nervous, but it turned out to be a really good experience and I had a lot of fun at it,” Schoenborn said.
In the interim, De Leo, Iverson, Turgeon, and Schoenborn are all training for the upcoming season, and spending time with family and friends. All four Winterhawks have already mapped out their goals for the 2014-15 season and are working hard to improve over the summer.
“It’s going to be a big year for me,” Turgeon said. “I’m expected to play a big role, and my offensive game is going to improve a lot next year.”
With the Draft fast approaching, De Leo, Turgeon, and Iverson have already been invited to attend the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp which will take place during the first week of August in Lake Placid, New York. There, the three Winterhawks will compete for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team that will play in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal at the end of December.
In addition, De Leo, who ranks at #36 in the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, hopes to attend both an NHL summer development camp and the main training camp of the team that drafts him.
“I’ll be doing my best to work hard all summer, trying to make the team I get drafted to. I want to come back to Portland and be a top player, go to World Juniors, and win a Memorial Cup.”
De Leo and Turgeon will both be travelling to Philadelphia for the Draft with their families, while Iverson and Schoenborn are opting to stay home and watch the Draft on TV with family and friends.