2024 NHL Draft

2024 NHL Draft Scouting Combine Notebook: What Teams Learned, Who Impressed

2024 NHL Draft Scouting Combine Notebook: What Teams Learned, Who Impressed

There was a lot to learn at the 2024 NHL Scouting Combine and our NHL Draft analyst came back with plenty of information.

Jun 10, 2024 by Chris Peters

BUFFALO, N.Y. – As it often does, the 2024 NHL Scouting Combine is a great place to gather information, meet prospects and get one last feel for where the 2024 NHL Draft is going.

The combine’s big event is the fitness testing that each of the invitees go through, but that happens over two days, with only one open to the public and it’s just a small portion of what the combine actually accomplishes.

The biggest part is the interviews between the teams and players. Some teams also take prospects out to dinner to get to know them better. Others will have additional meetings with teams before the draft.

To help get you up to date on the latest I’m hearing about the 2024 NHL Draft, as well as what we heard from prospects on the combine floor, I’m emptying the notebook.

Chicago Blackhawks Continue Due Diligence On Artyom Levshunov

The Chicago Blackhawks have met with Artyom Levshunov “a lot” over the course of the season, according to the Michigan State defenseman, and they spent extra time with him at the Scouting Combine as well. Levshunov said that the Blackhawks were the only team he met for dinner.  Levshunov spoke with 17 teams while in Buffalo during the Scouting Combine.

The talented defenseman also expressed he is open to returning to Michigan State for a second season, which would follow a recent pattern of NCAA defensemen who spent two years in college including No. 1 overall pick Owen Power who played his draft-plus-one season at Michigan before turning pro. Levshunov did say he would listen to what the team that drafted him wanted to do.

Chicago is expected to be among the teams attending the Gold Star Sports Management meetup with their Russian clients in Florida the week before the draft. Ivan Demidov will be among the prospects in attendance, which will afford teams the first chance to meet him.

Despite that, the growing belief around the league is that Chicago may favor the defenseman but the Blackhawks won't tip their hand and also know this pick is an especially crucial one for their franchise. This one could come down to the wire in terms of their decision process, but there's no question they're putting in the work.

Cayden Lindstrom Says He Has A Clean Bill Of Health

One of the big questions coming into the draft is how Cayden Lindstrom’s injury situation looks at this point. He missed a chunk of the season with separate injuries, the latest being an issue with his back.

Lindstrom only participated in three of the physical testing stations, grip strength, pull-ups and the bench press, while skipping others. He said that he has been skating four to five times a week since he’s been medically cleared and will continue rehabbing, while expecting no lingering issues.

In chatting with some NHL personnel in Buffalo and after, the sense I’ve gotten is that concerns are minimal about Lindstrom’s injury situation and that there’s a very good chance he goes in the range he was projected to in mid-season, which is to say he could be a top-five selection.

Lindstrom said that he had dinners with Utah, Columbus and Montreal while he was in Buffalo. Columbus picks fourth, Montreal has the fifth overall selection and Utah picks sixth.


Demidov Becoming More Of A Wild Card

In speaking with people in and around the combine in Buffalo, the sense I am getting is that Ivan Demidov’s chances of going among the first three picks in this draft is tenuous at best. There are still a number of concerns and some team personnel I spoke with are skeptical those concerns will be cleared up in June when Demidov travels to the U.S. for meetings with teams.

There are still legitimate concerns about Demidov’s plans after his contract expires next season. NHL teams are openly wondering if SKA St. Petersburg attempts to sign him to an extension and what that would mean for his NHL timeline.

Because of that, NHL teams feel there is a bit of a greater risk factor. NHL personnel also expressed some concern over strength of competition Demidov faced and the lack of viewings against higher-level competition to see how he would fare when the games were more challenging. Despite most teams having scouts in Russia, most higher-level team personnel had no live viewings of the player this season. My sense is that is not a defining factor in the selection, but it's part of the lack of comfort some teams feel about selecting Demidov with an especially high pick.

Demidov will travel to Florida the week before the draft where Gold Star Sports Management will hold its own combine of sorts. He will also meet with teams while there. Many of the teams selecting at the top of the draft will travel to Florida to meet with Demidov and continue their due diligence. 

Demidov is still recovering from an injury, so he is not expected to skate with the other Gold Star prospects that are coming in to speak with NHL teams.

The Russian players playing in Russia were not invited to the combine, while those that played in North America like Matvei Gridin and Mikhail Yegorov from the USHL were.

Trevor Connelly Interviewed With 22 NHL Teams

One of the most talked about prospects of the 2024 NHL Draft season is Trevor Connelly. A series of off-ice issues from his past as well as some of his occasionally immaturity on the ice has put teams on notice. 

I’ve spoken to a few teams that have already made the decision that they will not select Connelly and did not interview him at the Combine. That said, 22 teams did meet with the Tri-City Storm forward in Buffalo. 

He faced questions about his past and tried to share what he’s been doing to get past the issues that have given teams concern.

Connelly also was only able to participate in the upper-body testing during the scouting combine as he sustained a minor knee injury during training. He said he will be doing some physical therapy over the summer and should not miss any time as he is set to join Providence College next season.

Physical Testing Standouts: EJ Emery Wows With Athleticism


To be truthful, the physical testing is not going to factor in predominantly into the decision process of whether or not to draft a player. But it does help show some things about a player’s competitiveness, their athletic ability and in some cases how far they need to go in their physical training.

It’s a helpful tool and there’s a reason NHL teams send their strength and conditioning and performance people to review the prospects and offer their own assessments.

Among the players who excelled in the physical testing portion, EJ Emery of the U.S. National Under-18 Team, A.J. Spellacy of the Windsor Spitfires, Cole Beaudoin of the Barrie Colts, Lukas Fischer of the Sarnia Sting and Jett Luchanko of the Guelph Storm were among the real standouts.

Emery put up eye-popping numbers in the horizontal and vertical jumping drills, crushing the field in the process. He jumped nearly four full inches further than any other participant in the horizontal jump, which is a standing long jump, with a 123-inch distance. It is believed to be a combine record. He very nearly jumped past the measuring board.

In the vertical jump, Emery went 27.23 inches, nearly three inches higher than, the next closest competitor. 

Beaudoin has been viewed as one of the physically strongest prospects and excelled in the bench press power output with 8.71 watts per kilogram, which only Lukas Fischer was close to him in. Beaudoin also lasted the longest in the bike testing with 13:45, beating everyone by more than 30 seconds.

Notable Measurements

Zeev Buium officially measured in at 6-feet. That's a two-inch growth spurt over the last year as he completed his time at the National Team Development Program, as he was 5-10 heading into college. 

Buium said he needled friends and former fellow Shattuck-St. Mary's alumni Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman about their own measurements.

Celebrini and Eiserman had identical measurements as both came in at 5-foot-11.75 and 197 pounds.

Dean Letourneau was the biggest forward prosect to be measured. He came it at 6-foot-6.5 and 214 pounds. He also has the longest wingspan among Combine participants, measuring at 83.25 inches.

Defenseman Gabriel Eliasson was the tallest player measured at the combine, coming in at 6-foot-6.75.

Aron Kiviharju, who missed most of the season rehabbing a knee injury he sustained in September, participated in all combine events. He measured in at 5-foot-9.5 and 184 pounds. There were already concerns about Kiviharju's size and you would be surprised how much a 5-10.5 would matter versus a 5-9.5 to some teams. Kiviharju told me he really isn't sure what will happen at the draft and that he's still hopeful he could be among the first-round choices.

Other News And Notes From Around The Combine…

  • Utah went out to dinner with multiple prospects during the week in Buffalo, not tipping their hand as to who they liked. 
  • As noted, Cayden Lindstrom only did two drills during testing, Berkly Catton only did upper-body testing. Beckett Sennecke did not test at the combine, but was present for interviews.
  • Cole Hutson did not do any of the physical testing as he’d been rehabbing an ankle injury that he played through during the last half of the season. 
  • Adam Jiricek did not do any testing as he is still rehabbing a knee injury that required surgery. He has not yet been able to resume skating.
  • I heard from multiple sources that Norwegian defenseman Stian Solberg had a very good week at the combine. Teams were impressed with his maturity and he performed well during testing, topping all players in the pro agility tests. When asked by the media about why Solberg stayed in Norway this season as opposed to going abroad like many other top players have, he expressed his desire to stay closer to home and felt that the Norwegian league was still going to offer him a chance to develop into a better pro. He will be going to Sweden next season.
  • Marek Vanacker did not participate in physical testing due to recovering from an upper-body injury.
  • Zayne Parekh, Sam Dickinson and Sam O’Reilly each participated in the physical testing despite competing in the Memorial Cup a week prior.
  • Matvei Gridin said that the thing he needs to work on most is his body language during games. He heard from a lot of teams that they didn’t like that about him in meetings and he agreed. He said it’s something he’s already starting to address.
  • The Colorado Avalanche brought out board games and strategy games to play with prospects during their interview time. It was met with some positive reviews from prospects.
  • Players were asked questions about their Uber rating and Snapchat Scores. Zayne Parekh was proud of his 4.92-star rating on Uber, which he said he used an awful lot this year.
  • The Nashville Predators were asking players if they were in the military, would they rather be a sniper, a pilot or a medic. Dean Letourneau said that he would choose to be a sniper because he likes to be in control of a situation as opposed to out in the open.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have been asking prospects for years about what animal they would be on the ice and what animal they would be off the ice. A common answer as “a dolphin” due to smarts and speed on the ice. 
  • One of the strangest questions was posed to Michael Brandesgg-Nygard, who said one team asked him how he would describe the color blue. He said, "I don't know, look up at the sky, I guess?" Honestly, I don't know how to answer that question either.
  • Mikhail Yegorov was another player that I heard interviewed well and he was a favorite among the media, too. The Russian netminder who played for the Omaha Lancers last season in the USHL had tremendous insight on his mental approach and how his mother was a big resource for him on handling what was a tough season statistically for the big netminder.

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