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Combine notebook: Lesser-knowns have something at stake

The NHL Scouting Combine, which enters its final day Saturday, is an event built to reinforce opinions rather than change them. Teams have been watching the top prospects all year (or longer), so the interviews and workouts merely allow the parties to see another side of each other.

For the prospects further down the list, a good week can change their draft status.

“Teams are going to tweak their lists from here to there,” Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, said Friday. “If you have somebody on your staff that’s been pushing and pushing to move that player up higher on your list, he’s going to come out of here loaded with ammunition and he might be able to convince the rest of his crew.”

The players are ready for their last chance to change minds. The fitness testing will conclude inside HarborCenter.

“This is an avenue for the strength coaches to get a feel and an assessment for where they are in their athletic development at this age,” Marr said. “There’s a lot of projection that goes on, just like there is on the ice. They’re going to determine the body type, how much weight they think he can put on, can they make him faster, can they make him quicker.”

The most infamous part of the Combine - the VO2 max bike test - is already in the players’ rearview mirror. Central Scouting conducts two evaluations on stationary bikes and decided this year to split them. The Wingate, which measures explosiveness, will be Saturday. The VO2, which measures endurance while a breathing tube is over the players’ face, was held in private Friday.

“It’s kind of hard for the players to come in front of a gauntlet of cameras,” Marr said. “They’re a little nervous about it.”

Saturday’s other tests will include pull-ups, agility and the bench press.

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Connor McDavid will be the first pick in the draft. Jack Eichel will be the second. After that?

“You don’t know what to expect,” Boston College’s Noah Hanifin said. “That’s why the draft’s going to be so fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Hanifin is ranked third by Central Scouting, but the defenseman certainly isn’t a lock to be drafted No. 3 by Arizona. Junior forwards Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Lawson Crouse are in the conversation.

“Starting at three, anything can happen,” said Strome, who played with McDavid for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League.

While those players are overshadowed by McDavid and Eichel, they understand the reasoning.

“Those type of players don’t come around very often,” Strome said. “We’re trying to do our best to make our names for ourselves.”

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Buffalo, which is hosting the Combine for the first time, continues to get positive reviews.

“The appeal of moving to HarborCenter in Buffalo was we could have it all under one roof,” Marr said, “and the comments that I’m getting from the teams here is that the concept has worked very, very well.”

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Strome made his mother cry this week when he told her about an interview.

“One of the teams said, ‘If your mom was in here right now, what would she say about you?’ ” the forward said. “I said that she would have said that I love my family and I care about them a lot. Obviously, I made her a little teary.”

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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