Top prospects begin infamous bike testing
TORONTO -- Is there any doubt that the words "bike test" are enough to make any top draft-eligible prospect uneasy in the week leading up to the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine?
It's a frozen moment in time for any blue-chip athlete looking to make an impression on NHL scouts and general managers. The heart starts beating faster the moment those technicians duct tape both feet to the pedals in preparation for those two infamous bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and VO2 Max.
Those familiar with the VO2 Max, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, knows it happens to be the most grueling of all the endurance tests conducted by York University for the benefit of the 30 NHL teams.
The Wingate peak power output test measures the explosiveness of a skater and could provide critical information in learning how quickly a player might be able to begin a transition up ice.
Last year, just one player lasted at least 14 minutes on the VO2 -- Swedish defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who was drafted sixth overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater in 2012, Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, lasted 12:25 on the VO2.
Defenseman Mathew Dumba, drafted seventh overall by the Minnesota Wild, lasted 11 minutes.
"That's a killer, you come right off the Wingate and guys are throwing up in the back and your legs are just shot and you've got another one [VO2] to go," said Dumba. "It's pretty hard to bear down and it really challenges you."
It isn't uncommon to see a few players feeling ill following the peak power output Wingate test, as well.
"At the start of the testing, there are scouts everywhere just sort of staring at you as you're going through the testing and it's a bit intimidating, but I just tried to block them out and focus on the test," Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray told NHL.com. "I thought the Wingate wasn't that hard because it was only 30 seconds; I just closed my eyes and just went as hard as I could. I thought the VO2 was harder."
Murray, chosen second overall by the Blue Jackets at the 2012 Draft, finished second behind Lindholm on the VO2 with a time of 13:32. Murray's teammates in Everett, Mirco Mueller, would be wise to listen to his former partner since he'll take part in this year's testing.
"During the VO2, at around the eight-minute mark, you're trying to keep up with the RPM's and going absolutely full out and you're breathing through the tube and it's a little different because they're plugging your nose," Murray said. "You're trying to get air and going so long, you completely max your body out."
Sarnia forward Alex Galchenyuk, drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens last June, had the best score in the Anaerobic fitness, peak power output, last year.
"I think anyone going into the [Combine bike tests] wants to look as good as they can," NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr said. "There's some pride in it and it does help them with their training to let them know this is where you need to be if you want to play in the NHL. You could look at it from another angle, too. If you test poorly at the Combine and test very good at the team's training camp, well then they can say that you put in a heck of a summer with regard to your progression … that could be a benefit too."