Top Prospect Nolan Patrick Fully Cleared as NHL Combine Set to Begin

Two clubs breathed a sigh of relief this week when it was announced that Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick has been medically cleared to undergo full fitness testing as the NHL Scouting Combine officially gets underway Friday in Buffalo.

Obviously, those two clubs are the New Jersey Devils, who hold the No. 1 pick in this month's NHL draft and the Flyers, who are selecting No. 2, after advancing into that spot during last month's draft lottery in Toronto.

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Both clubs interviewed Patrick earlier this week.

Patrick told that he had been cleared for testing and was "close to 100 percent."

There are concerns from both the Devils and Flyers as to Patrick's overall health, given he played just 33 games this season in the WHL, first coming off sport hernia surgery, then suffering a couple of debilitating upper and lower body injuries, believed to be shoulder and groin issues.

Devils general manager Ray Shero said he has had a number of inquiries about trading his top pick.

Flyers GM Ron Hextall has been less specific, but it's not a stretch to think he's had the same discussions about the No. 2 pick, as well.

The Devils are expected to select Patrick while the Flyers are expected to tab European prospect Nico Hischier, ranked second overall by Central Scouting. The Swiss centerman competed in North America with 38 goals and 86 points during 57 games with Halifax last season.

Unlike the NFL Scouting Combine which places an enormous emphasis on the 40-yard dash and other speed elements, the NHL Combine is centered more around agility.

There is various balance testing in sneakers - not skates - grip strength testing; VO2 aerobic testing which the Flyers employ in detail during training camp every fall; standing long jump, an activity the NFL also employs; and the usual strength measures, such as bench press, pull-ups, etc.

The combine allows GMs and scouts individual 1-on-1 interviews and more in-depth testing of the top 100-plus prospects in one setting.

"What the players have to keep in mind is that this will be their initial contact with many NHL teams so they have the chance to make that good initial impression," Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, told

"Some kids aren't that comfortable when they're in an interview environment, so it's important they be prepared to talk about themselves, which is something they might not be used to doing. The combine gives the NHL teams a chance to get to know the player away from the rink."

All 31 clubs, including the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, will be represented.

NHL Central Scouting lists 104 players at this year's combine, 84 of whom are from North America.

Eight of the 12 fitness tests will be conducted on Saturday.

This is the third year Buffalo has hosted the event.

The NHL draft will be held June 23-24 in Chicago.

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