As young hockey prospects gather in Buffalo this week hoping to impress National Hockey League teams, the city is achieving several firsts as it hosts the NHL's Scouting Combine inside the HarborCenter and First Niagara Center.
This week, prospects - including the projected top two draft picks, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel - will undergo interviews, physical examinations and fitness tests, all while being monitored closely by representatives of every NHL team including the Sabres, who are widely expected to select Eichel with the second overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft later this month.
In the meantime, Buffalo is achieving numerous firsts by hosting this year's Scouting Combine. For starters, it's the first time since the combine was introduced in 1999 that it has been hosted outside of Toronto.
"Not only is it the first time it's left Toronto, it's the first time that the event has moved into a hockey facility," said Buffalo Sabres president Ted Black. "Our HarborCenter/First Niagara campus is quite amazing in that regard."
Previous combines hosted in Toronto have usually been held in a large convention hall. In addition to hosting the first Scouting Combine within a dedicated hockey facility, Black says this year's combine in Buffalo will also mark the first time physical examinations will be held at a medical facility, instead of bringing doctors into the convention hall.
An estimated 120 prospects are expected to participate in the combine, which continues through Saturday. The NHL Entry Draft will be hosted in Sunrise, Florida on June 26 and 27.
Buffalo will also host next year's NHL Scouting Combine.