An impressive performance at the National Hockey League’s scouting combine may have boosted Kevin Sundher’s stock heading into next month’s NHL entry draft.
The draft-eligible Chilliwack Bruin travelled to Toronto last week to take part in six days of testing and interviews.
Representatives of the 30 big league teams put Sundher and 99 other players through the gauntlet, trying to finetune their strategy heading into this year’s entry draft, which takes place June 25-26 in Los Angeles.
“I was pretty relaxed the whole week, to be honest,” Sundher said about the experience. “My agent prepared me really well. He told me to just go out and let them know who you are. Most of the scouts don’t see you off the ice and get to know you as a person. That’s what the week was about for me.”
After taking a day to settle in, Sundher was thrown into the interview process on day two.
“It was basically the whole day on Thursday, and I thought the interview process was really cool,” he said. “Going into it, my agent told me to be prepared for some weird questions, usually one per interview. But there really wasn’t anything too strange. I thought they’d get after me a bit, but basically it was positive the whole way through.”
Questions pertained to his strengths and weaknesses on and off the ice. Sundher tried to keep good posture, maintain eye contact, stay relaxed and not hesitate with his answers.
“Every meeting was about 20 minutes long,” he explained. “We talked about last season, where I want to be in a few years and what I’m going to do to get to that next level. Like I said, nothing too off the wall.”
An articulate and intelligent guy by nature, Sundher heard later that NHL scouts and executives were impressed by how he did.
“A couple teams asked what my favourite music was,” Sundher said. “I told them my girlfriend sang country music and I listen to everything but country. They got a kick out of that one.”
They were even more impressed by his performance in the physical testing. Sundher did predictably well in things like the long jump and vertical leap — tests that correlate strongly to skating strength and speed.
Where he surprised many was with his performance in strength testing, which took place on Saturday.
Sundher was up at 5 a.m. (2 a.m. PST) getting ready for testing at 7:30 a.m.
After breakfast, he had an hour of private medical testing before heading to the grand stage.
Between 200-300 scouts watched as Sundher did his thing under glaring lights. It was an intimidating atmosphere, but the 17-year-old wasn’t rattled.
In the bench press, he did 19 reps of 150 pounds, timed by a metronome. Often thought of as speedy but not particularly strong player, Sundher definitely turned some heads.
“I was first in one and second in the other and I benched more than some pretty big boys,” he said. “I let the scouts know that I’m not the biggest guy, but I can handle what’s thrown at me. The guy that beat me was from Harvard and he was a year older than me.”
Assessing last season, Sundher pin-pointed strength as an area needing improvement. Most of his off-season work to date has focussed on that, and the hard work has obviously paid off.
“Next season I’ll be a lot stronger, and hopefully that helps me out,” he said.
The most gruelling part of the week was the back-to-back bike tests, used to measure cardio.
“They were the last two tests and they were outrageous,” Sundher explained. “You do the first one and then you go into what they called a ‘puke room.’ There were six or so guys in there hanging over garbage cans hoping their name wouldn’t get called next. A half hour later you get your name called and you have to go back out to do it again.”
Overall, Sundher finished among the top 10 in seven of the physical tests.
“I had a big smile most of the time because I wasn’t very nervous and it was a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. “I think I did really well, and we’ll see where the cards fall in June.”
Now less than a month away from having his name called at the Staples Centre, Sundher has no more opportunities to improve his stock.
All he can do is wait.
“This was a once in a lifetime experience and I’ll remember it for a long time,” Sundher said. “It’s all out of my hands now. It’ll probably get pretty nerve-wracking over the next couple weeks as it gets closer, because it is a big deal. But I’m relaxed right now and happy knowing I did my best.”
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