TORONTO — The poking and prodding of NHL draft prospects this week at the league’s scouting combine has its amusing elements, Elkhorn’s Travis Sanheim said Friday.
He was in the middle of a fifth busy day of interviews with teams, with three more to go to complete a chart of all 30 by the end of Friday.
Once all the talking is done, the prospects will be put through a series of fitness tests today, including the dreaded VO2 bike test.
But it was the talking that had the 18-year-old Calgary Hitmen defenceman smiling a little on Friday.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Sanheim said of his week of interviews with team general managers and scouts. “The first couple were obviously nerve-racking but once I got a couple done I felt like it got easier. It’s kind of repetitive. You just get used to it.
“And you get a few odd questions, but mostly they’re similar. You do it like a job interview.”
Odd? As in?
“One was, ‘Off The Big Bang Theory, what character most resembles you?’” he laughed. “And another was, ‘If your team’s in a war and you could be a sniper, a fighter pilot or a medic, which one would you be and why?’ So some tough ones.”
In a week of getting to know NHL people and being exposed to some NHL culture, there are some benefits. Like meeting some pretty famous league legends.
“Stevie Y was pretty cool,” Sanheim said. “Meeting Patrick Roy, that’s another one.”
The 6-foot-3, 183-pound blue-liner is a fast-riser on many scouting lists this spring. He was playing in the Manitoba AAA Midget league just a year ago, but he progressed to the WHL’s Hitmen and then last month played for Canada at the world under-18 championship in Finland, where he had six assists in seven games and helped the team to a bronze medal.
NHL Central Scouting has Sanheim listed at No. 53 in its final ranking of North American skaters. But other rankings are higher. International Scouting Services released its final list not long ago and had Sanheim at
No. 30 overall. The Hockey News put him at No. 21 in its draft preview, suggesting the first round might be realistic next month in Philadelphia.
“At the start of the year the jump was huge to the Western Hockey League,” Sanheim said.
“We had a pretty good ‘D’ corps in Calgary so I found myself behind a couple of guys, but right before Christmas our captain went down with an injury and my ice time went up,” Sanheim continued.
“And I got a power-play role as well, so right around Christmas was when things sort of took off. I thought I had a pretty good second half and gained some confidence and the coach started relying on me more. And I started to do more things with the puck, which is what I needed to do to be more successful.”
The Team Canada experience confirmed for a number of scouts Sanheim’s rise in some rankings is real.
“It was tough losing in the (WHL) playoffs, but at the same time, when one door closes another opens,” Sanheim said. “So I was able to go to the camp in Toronto and that really helped me because I got to know the coaching staff and my teammates before we went over to Finland.”
Today’s testing was causing him no stress, Sanheim said Friday.
“I’ve talked to a couple of guys who did this before and they said it’s not too bad,” he said. “They said you should just do your best, that teams aren’t really concerned whether you can do a lot of bench press or stuff. It’s more the effort you put in, showing that you are making an effort to get that last bench press or on the VO2 test, you are going for another 30 seconds or whatever.
“Competing and showing you work hard. Obviously, strength is a big issue for me to work on and teams know that. They’re just trying to see where I’m at. Obviously, the summer’s a big one for me.”
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