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Jets' expert forecasts potential for growth

Strength & conditioning guru Stubbs sizes up prospects

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TORONTO -- Trying to see what might be from what is has become an assignment for more than hockey scouts.

The Winnipeg Jets have sent their strength and conditioning expert, team assistant athletic therapist Lee Stubbs, to the NHL Scouting Combine, and they aren't the only ones.

While the top 105-ranked players for the upcoming entry draft were brought to Toronto for this week's interviews and fitness testing, Stubbs was a railbird for Friday's and Saturday's regimen of physical assessments and drills.

Most of the high-profile names were through the various stations at the International Centre on Friday. Saturday wasn't without its names, but there were more European-born and mid-first-round possibilities like Finland's Teuvo Teravainen and Swedes Sebastian Collberg, Ludwig Bystrom and Hampus Lindholm on hand.

Most of the players in attendance are 17 or 18 and you'd be pretty hard-pressed to spot a future NHL player by muscle or bone mass alone.

"On my end, I'm looking at the kid's development," Stubbs said during a break on Saturday. "You look at his upper body, you look at his lower body, how well he is developed, is there room to grow?

"When they do various tests, you try to grasp how hard the kid's working. Will he push himself when he's starting to get fatigued. Will he push past that level? Is he going to give up? Is he an athlete?

"You're also trying to see how he moves, and if there are any deficiencies between left and right side, that type of thing."

While scouts are watching and noting a prospect's every move on the ice, Stubbs is keeping tabs on the body measurements and movements, trying to help GM Kevin Cheveldayoff with any and every insight possible into what makes these young players tick.

"I try to gather all that information and then pass it on to Chevy, Zing, (assistant GM Craig Heisinger) and our scouts," Stubbs said. "They can take that and use it for the draft.

"They'll probably be asking me about muscular development, what kind of leg strength a kid has. Is he a powerful kid? You can take the statistics from the draft and convey them so they can be used at the draft. Things like: is he strong? Is he explosive? Those kinds of things."

Well aware of what 60 minutes of combine tests require, Stubbs said fans might be surprised how demanding an hour these prospects face.

"I'd say the hardest is doing those (two) bike tests," Stubbs said. You've got that Wingate test, which is a 30-second bike test... maximum pushing as hard as you can for 30 seconds and by the end, some of the kids are pretty exhausted.

"And then shortly after, they do the VO2 test, which is exhausting, too, and it's very strenuous for those kids who have never done it before.

"Especially for a kid who's played in the Memorial Cup. They haven't had a lot of time to prepare for this. It can be overwhelming. These kids put in a lot of effort here. The fans may not realize how hard it actually is."

While he's assisting the scouting staff this week, Stubbs still spends much of his time monitoring the off-season training work for the Jets' players.

For many players, Stubbs said, the full-time work has already begun for the season ahead.

"Nowadays, it's a lot of training in the summer," he said. "Guys are going hard already, so they're ready to come back next season and hit the ground running. Guys are working 16 weeks of hard training; it's a long summer."

Who does what in the summer?

"It depends on your season," Stubbs said. "We finished early (April 7), so most guys will take a couple of weeks off with their family to let their body kind of heal and recuperate.

"The first couple of weeks, guys usually get back into it, work small muscles and that sort of thing. We have guys who work on individual stuff, whether it's conditioning, upper- or lower-body strength or explosiveness. They may have some general stuff they all do that's the same, but from me they get individual stuff, depending on what they need."


Time flies when you're

Kevin Cheveldayoff


TORONTO -- The NHL's draft combine, on this week in Toronto, had Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in a reflective mood.

It was during combine week last year that the former assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks went on the fast track to becoming the first GM of Jets 2.0.

"I received a phone call from John McDonough, the president of the Blackhawks," Cheveldayoff recalled of the swift events after the May 31, 2011 announcement that the Atlanta Thrashers were being sold and relocated to Winnipeg. "He said that Mark (Chipman) wanted to speak with me. The whirlwind of activity and my thought process got turned upside down with that phone call. It's hard to believe it's been a year already.

"And now I'm sitting here in Toronto trying to get ready for the combine again, conduct interviews with young prospects, knowing full well that dead smack in the middle of it last year I got that call.

"It's a great time of fond memories and just can't believe a year's flown by already."

Cheveldayoff also recalled being unofficially "outed" as a GM candidate on June 2 during a break at the combine, when he reluctantly agreed to a conversation with the Free Press.

His cryptic answers were telling.

"The look on my face must have been worth a thousand words," laughed Cheveldayoff, who was officially hired six days later.


-- Tim Campbell

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2012 B2

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