Who were the big winners at the draft combine this weekend?

Ryan Kennedy
Alex Nylander at the bench press (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)

The draft combine is a tricky event. Some folks grouse that there is no on-ice component and the exercises do lend a bit of a dog-and-pony show vibe to the proceedings, but there is still a lot of business conducted. For players who didn’t have great years, or played in smaller circuits, the team interviews can be key. And it is interesting to see how certain players did on the physical tests compared to their peers. So who won the weekend?

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Top defensemen make their case at the draft combine

Mikhail Sergachev  (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – There was a lot of interest among the local media in defensemen this morning. With Buffalo hosting the draft combine, camera crews and reporters got a chance to quiz a number of potential future Sabres and several of those candidates were blueliners. With Buffalo picking eighth, a top D-man will surely be available, but which one?

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Jesse Puljujarvi will not be quiet any longer

Finland's Jesse Puljujärvi (Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – The main attraction at today’s draft combine access was top-rated Auston Matthews, as it probably should be. But for the few reporters who went to Jesse Puljujarvi first, a new personality could be seen. Puljujarvi, it seems, won’t be taking a back seat to anyone for much longer.

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Inside the interview room at the draft combine

Ryan Kennedy
Draft veterans Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – The NHL draft combine has two main components: the physical testing, most of which will happen this Saturday, and the interview portion. The latter is spread out over a few days this week, with all 30 teams interviewing a range of players from the 114 invited by Central Scouting. So what happens in those interviews? I had the good fortune to find out this year, as one franchise let me sit in on a block of interviews. Here’s how it went down.

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Matthews defies odds to crack Team North America lineup

Auston Matthews  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

So just how good is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, Auston Matthews? Well, he’s so good that apparently he can skate uphill.

When Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman, the two men most responsible for putting the North American roster for the World Cup of Hockey together, announced their initial selections for the 23-and-under team less than three months ago, Chiarelli declared that Matthews had an “uphill road” in his attempts to be on the roster. But with an impressive World Championship to his credit where he was one of the best players in the tournament, Matthews bucked the odds and will find himself part of what will easily be the most intriguing team in the tournament.

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More Patrik Laine! Finland gives us what we want with World Cup roster

Patrik Laine (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)

Given how important the youth have been to Finland this year, it’s probably not a shocker that the final seven roster spots for the nation’s World Cup of Hockey team skew young. But it is nice to see the kids rewarded.

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Is Madison Bowey the missing piece that Washington needs?

Ryan Kennedy
Madison Bowey (Photo by Ken Andersen/NHLPA via Getty Images)

It’s hard not to see a bitter irony in the fact that Madison Bowey is still playing hockey, while the Washington Capitals are not. After all, the Caps are the dream for Bowey, a physical two-way defenseman currently enjoying his first year of pro with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

But if Bowey can help the Bears get five more playoff wins, it will be the perfect ending to an excellent year of development for Washington’s most promising blueline prospect. And perhaps a glimpse of the Capitals’ future.

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