TORONTO -- The words "bike test" are enough to make any top draft prospect uneasy in the hours leading up to the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine.
The bike tests are daunting but important for any of the prospects looking to make an impression on NHL scouts and general managers. The heart starts beating faster the moment technicians duct tape the players' feet to the pedals in preparation for those two infamous tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and VO2 Max.
All 11 fitness tests will be conducted on Saturday at the Toronto International Centre beginning 7:30 a.m. ET, with the final group due to start about 5:30 p.m.
"All players must be medically cleared by the NHL Combine medical staff in order to participate in the physical testing," Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "Any player that is not 100-percent able to perform an upper- or lower-body test will be classed as injury or medically exempt depending on the circumstances.
"Every year there are instances where players have declined the Combine invitation, been medically ruled unable to test or have declined to test, but those instances vary and are rare."
Already six prospects have been medically exempt from participating in the fitness segment of the Combine this year: Forwards Keegan Iverson (Portland, WHL), Alexis Pepin (Gatineau, QMJHL) and Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL), and defensemen Gavin Bayreuther (St. Lawrence, ECAC), Nelson Nogier (Saskatoon, WHL) and Alexis Vanier (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL).
Of the two tests, most players say the VO2 Max, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, is the most grueling of all two.
However, the Wingate Ergometer peak power output test, which measures the explosiveness of a skater and could provide critical information in learning how quickly a player might be able to begin a transition up ice, isn't too far behind on the intimidation scale.
At the 2013 Combine Sean Monahan lasted 14:00 on the VO2 Max test, the eighth-longest of any prospect. He went on to be picked by the Calgary Flames with the sixth pick of the 2013 draft.
Monahan played for the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League last season, and one of his teammates was defenseman Jacob Middleton. Middleton is No. 172 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.
"I spoke to Monahan a lot; he plays in Calgary now and I text him for suggestions," Middleton said. "I also have spoken to Zach Nastasiuk, a second-round pick [in 2013] of the Detroit Red Wings. I played with Zach when I was in Owen Sound and before the trade to Ottawa. Both of them have been great with helping me.
"It's all about giving it everything you got."
Defenseman Ryan Murray, chosen by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the second pick of the 2012 draft, placed second in the VO2 Max test with a time of 13:32.
"During the VO2, at around the eight-minute mark, you're trying to keep up with the RPM's and going absolutely full out and you're breathing through the tube and it's a little different because they're plugging your nose," Murray said at the time. "You're trying to get air and going so long, you completely max your body out."
Sounds like fun, eh?
Monahan's peak power output on the Wingate Ergometer test measured 12.6 watts per kilogram of body weight, which was 3.2 short of last year's leader Rimouski Oceanic defenseman Samuel Morin, who went on to be the 11th pick of the 2013 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I think the Wingate bike test was the harder of the two tests," Monahan said last year. "It's quick and just 30 seconds and there's a lot of resistance and you have to keep the pace up but I did the best I could.
"I realize [the Combine] is a process to get to the next level and I wanted to be a pro and I wanted to play in the NHL so I think going through the Combine was a good experience for me."
Marr said he's accustomed to seeing groups of general managers and scouts huddled in front of the bike tests.
"I think anyone going into the [Combine bike tests] wants to look as good as they can," Marr said. "There's some pride in it and it does help them with their training to let them know this is where you need to be if you want to play in the NHL. You could look at it from another angle too. If you test poorly at the Combine and test very good at the team's training camp, well, then they can say that you put in a heck of a summer with regard to your progression … that could be a benefit too."
The 2014 Combine also will incorporate three new tests for the top prospects. Replacing push-ups, the push-pull station and seated medicine ball throw at this year's event will be overhand pull-ups, single leg squats and a pro agility test.
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