Sports Hockey

NHL COMBINE

Top-five prospect Strome learning how to charm media

By Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

BUFFALO - 

Of the four teen hockey sensations thrown into a giant scouting combine scrum on Friday, Dylan Strome was best able to charm the media like Ringo Starr when the Beatles first set foot in America.

Asked what advice he’d give NHL foes who must cover his Erie teammate Connor McDavid, Strome quipped “Good luck, I guess.

“I had to play against him in the Top Prospects Game and got caught out there for a minute and a half shift," Strome said. "I had to do everything possible against him not to score on me and I think he passed one right through my legs.

“He has the ability to do that to teams and to people. I think we in Erie take it for granted because we see him every day. Some of the stuff he does in games and practices is pretty ridiculous. He’s going to be on SportsCentre a lot in the coming years.”

Strome also revealed one of the more thought-provoking questions he received during one team interview.

“They said ‘if your mom was in here right now, what would she say about you’? That was kind of interesting. When I told her what I’d said, she was pretty happy. She would have said I love my family and care about them a lot. That obviously made her a little teary. I got in her good books.”

Too cool for school?

Noah Hanifin danced around whether he might choose to go back to Boston College for another year. If the Coyotes or Leafs pick him, patience will likely be the watchword.

“I’m not sure yet,” the defenceman said. “I’m just going to wait until the draft, see what team selects me, discuss it with them, seek their advice, talk it over with my coaching staff at BC, my family and my advisers,”

Hanifin also acknowledged he has a junior option with Quebec City of the QMJHL. Eichel, the higher rated collegiate player, is not as likely to elect another year at Boston University, but won’t rule it out.

“I still have a lot of people to talk to, and definitely a tough decision to make. At the end of the day, the decision is up to me. I don’t want to be somewhere next year that I don’t want to be. So if it ends up that my heart tells me I want to move on and try the NHL, then that’s what I’m going to do. If my heart says go back to BU, that’s what I’m going to do.”

LETS GET PHYSICAL

The final phase of combine physical testing will be Saturday, when players’ ability to long jump, vertical leap and bench press will be among the tasks.

“I don’t know if these scores are going to make a big impact,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “But if you have somebody on your staff that’s been pushing to move a player higher on your list, he’s going to come out here loaded with ammunition (from the tests) and he might be able to convince the rest of his crew.

“Teams are going to tweak their lists from here to (June 26-27 in Florida). Somebody who has made a case for a player, other people might buy into his sell job.”

Marr is the NHL authority with final say on stamping McDavid No. 1, however he’d prefer to keep predictions of greatness as realistic as possible.

“I’m not quite comfortable with the term ‘generational’ (player). It’s a fine line. If you try to project 10 years down the road, it’s still going to be a fine line. They (McDavid and Eichel) both bring something a little different to the table. They both are going to be big contributors in the NHL, they’re going to make a difference for their team.

“What we like about Connor is the quickness with which he processes the game, the quickness with which he executes. We feel the best is yet to come; there’s still room for growth in his game.”

COMBINE CHATTER

Though this event is growing bigger by the year, Marr was careful not to compare it to the massive media frenzy that is the NFL’s combine. “They (NHL prospects) don’t have the (months) to prepare for this like the NFL. A lot of these guys played last Sunday (in the Memorial Cup final). And they’re 17 years old instead of 23. But they have an opportunity to show where they are in their development.” ... Marr on so little separating picks three through 10: “They call it jelly beans. Just throw them up and they’ll scatter. Take your pick.” ... Eichel on the good possibility he’ll have the Sabres new man Dan Bylsma as coach: “If I end up in Buffalo,” Eichel said with a smile, “I’d be more than excited to play for him. He brings a lot to the table, obviously, he’s coached some of the best players in the world: (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, he’s got a lot of energy, and he’s won (a Cup).”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca

@sunhornby

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