WINDSOR, Ont. — Their games have been picked over, critiqued and dissected, but now comes the really nerve-racking part.
Over the next couple of days, National Hockey League teams are going to force Windsor Spitfires Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler and Justin Shugg to run the gauntlet of the psychological and physical probing known as the Scouting Combines.
The Windsor trio will be joined by 97 other invitees to Mississauga, Ont., as teams look to complete the picture on players who they’re considering writing seven-figure cheques to.
“This is something I’ve never gone through,” said Hall, who is ranked second in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings for the draft next month.
“I’m just going to be myself and show them there’s different sides to me. Obviously, I’m a competitive guy on the ice and I show that, but I can also be a pretty nice kid.
“Hopefully, I can show them that and show them I have a pretty good personality.”
On the ice, Hall has a resume that is unmatched in the draft.
Canadian Hockey League and Ontatio Hockey League rookie of the year awards, a Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as OHL playoff MVP, two OHL championships, a share of this season’s OHL scoring title, a gold medal at the world under-17 challenge and world under-18 championship, a gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, a silver medal at this year’s IIHF world junior championship, two Memorial Cup titles and the only player to win consecutive MVP honours in the 92-year history of the Memorial Cup.
Hall said he’s talked a little to teammates who have been through the combine and their advice is simple.
“They all say the same thing, just be yourself,” Hall said.
“If you try and lie, you won’t go far. Try to be funny and don’t take it too seriously.”
Hall anticipates teams might try to goad him a little with criticisms of his game.
He’s heard most of them before and he plans to defend himself where required and admit shortcomings where there are valid observations.
“I’m sure there’ll be teams that pick out parts of my game to see what I’ll say,” said Hall, who had 40 goals and 106 points in 57 regular-season games this season.
“I’m probably going to defend myself and try and be me.”
Fowler, who is the second-ranked defenceman in the draft, said the combines make him more nervous than playing.
As only the 21st player to ever win a world junior title and a Memorial Cup in the same year, the Windsor native has already shown he’s certainly comfortable on the ice when it counts most.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Fowler, who also has a world under-18 title on his resume in which he was named the top defenceman in the tournament.
“The interviews, I don’t really know what to expect. When you’re playing, you just go out there. I heard there were a few tricky questions in the interviews. You have to be yourself.
“You can’t try and be someone you’re not.”
He’s also quizzed his teammates about the oddball questions that are becoming famous at the combines.
Designed to trip up those regurgitating mundane answers, Fowler has decided the cool and controlled way he plays is also the best way to handle any curve balls.
“I’ve heard of some of those odd questions,” said Fowler, who had eight goals and 55 points in as many games. “You just have to take your time and think and react how you think you should. Those are the kinds of questions that make it interesting.
“If you had the same questions over and over, you might just look dull. Those questions bring out your personality.”
While Hall appears a virtual lock to be playing in the NHL next season, Fowler said he’s had no time to fully analyze his situation.
He feels he’s in a win-win situation regardless of where he’s playing next fall.
“I haven’t put my thoughts together about what’s next for me,” Fowler said. “I’d like to think I’m ready (for the NHL). I’m going to give it my all and put it all on the line for the team that picks me.
“I’ll have to see what happens, but I have a great organization to come back to if it doesn’t work out.”
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