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NHL’s draft combine to conclude with Saturday’s grueling fitness tests

The NHL has invited 119 of the top prospects for the 2014 draft to Toronto, and they've spent this past week shuffling in and out of meeting rooms, interviewing NHL teams as a lead-up to the draft, which takes place on June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia.

Tomorrow, the tedium of talk and essentially living in a swanky hotel (closer to agents' offices near Lester B. Pearson Airport than the actual attractions that Toronto has to offer) will shift gears in a dramatic fashion, and the NHL will have to hope that it's paid its deposit to both the hotel and to a carpet-cleaning company.

Why? On Saturday, the NHL's going to put the draft combine's participants through a grueling set of fitness tests that are literally designed to bring players to their breaking points--and often lose-their-lunch points--as NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale notes:

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.

Two tests involve a significant fear factor:

[M]ost 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."

Morreale continues, and yes, TSN and NHL.com will produce the customary amount of, "Players nearly falling over, fainting and/or becoming ill" footage over the next day or two.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com