There is little certainty in the NHL assessment camp

There is little certainty in the NHL assessment camp

In recent days I had the pleasure of having a lengthy discussion with the former Canadian Director of Sports Science and Performance, Pierre Allard. After the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, the latter caused a huge surprise by leaving CH to become assistant coach at Red Bull Munich, in the German first division.

Allard will return to Munich next season. He attends his classes behind the bench while he has an impressive wealth of scientific knowledge regarding physical preparation of players, energy management of athletes and analysis of the tons of data that is provided. Coaches before, during and after games.

He was completing his Ph.D. (which he postponed) when he decided to leave for Germany. A scientific study he conducted for a whole season with Laval Rocket players entitled Training load during the season associated with the corresponding load in professional ice hockeyPosted in 2020 in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

There is no doubt that the very distinguished professional personality of Pierre Allard will eventually earn him interesting opportunities in the world of hockey over the next few years.

However, during the period of the annual Interactive Assessment Camp, Pierre Allard has played an important role with Canadians over the past decade. And the observations he made when he was in the midst of the event are very exciting.

This assessment camp is a very important step for recruits and team managers. At Canadiens, my role was to interpret the results of the players’ physical exams and to provide feedback to the recruits about the players’ performance.

I was also a member of a small committee that met after each assessment camp to think of ways to improve the formula for subsequent years.Explains Pierre Allard.

Over the past few days, the sports pages have been filled with articles chronicling the meetings that major clients have with team management. This formula is somewhat rigid. Meetings last only 15 minutes and some hopefuls spend entire days touring the team headquarters, who would like to have a more personal connection with the athletes they desire.

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It’s a bit like speed dating, But with more serious financial consequences .

This is not an easy exercise. I’ve always wondered how you can assess someone’s personality in 15 minutes by asking them questions in the room. This way of doing things has always surprised me, even though I know there is no perfect way.

In my opinion, it is very difficult to get an idea just because we take young people out of context. When a potential client meets six or eight people at the same time, he may be nervous. He may have slept poorly the night before, or he may still be thinking about an answer he gave during a previous meeting that he’s not sure how to phrase it correctly.

In addition, players are outfitted by their agent prior to participating in these meetings. So they arrive with ready answers. In addition to holding a short meeting to get an idea, you should try to choose between what is real and what is prepared.he argues.

Perhaps for this reason, team leaders make special efforts to spend better time with the athletes they care about the most. Over the past week, for example, the CH leaders also went to dinner with Shane Wright and Logan Cooley. They invited senior winger Yuraj Slavkovsky to an additional one-hour meeting one evening after assessment camp activities.

In the end, a 15-minute meeting may be better than no meeting at all. But it is true that for a billion-dollar company, establishing such a strategic staffing on such a short sample is, at best, a risky exercise.

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Regarding the physical tests that the athletes undergo, it does not provide much certainty either, if we are to believe Pierre Allard.

During the week, optimistic young men alternately undergo kinematic and functional examinations in order to assess their flexibility and detect any imbalances in the way they move. They also undergo medical tests and a VO2 max test on a stationary bike with direct gas analysis, which means they have to pedal with tubes in their mouths.

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The most popular exercises for recruits come on the last day, with long jumps, jumps performed on the strength platform (which instantly measures the force of impulses), agility tests and the bench push (bench press), as well as the famous test from wind gateWhich all athletes fear.

This strenuous test measures anaerobic performance. It consists of pedaling for a maximum of 30 seconds against a resistance created according to the size of the athlete.

When teams have all these results, the emergence of cognitive bias is the greatest danger awaiting recruits, according to Pierre Allard.

There are sports in which we have successfully eliminated cognitive biases. On the other hand, they are still present in hockey. If we like a player, we will tend to dwell on the tests that the player has done well to say: “ You see, I told you it was good! On the contrary, if we do not like the player, we will especially note the tests in which he appeared less well to say that we should not choose him.

Also, it must be remembered that these tests reflect only one day in the life of the player. I have constantly warned recruits about this. It is enough that the player was sick the day before or had a bad day to distort the data. So I was particularly interested in players that the scouts liked and who underperformed in the test. I tried to ask them questions to better understand what could have happened.As Pierre Allard says.

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During his time at Al-Kindi, Pierre Allard led several projects in collaboration with the University of Montreal in order to find scientific methods that would potentially make CH regulation more efficient on several levels.

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The study I referred to above was one of his collaborations.

With the help of Professor Jonathan Tremblay, from the Department of Kinesiology, we attempted to establish a link between the fact of joining the NHL and the results players obtained when they participated in an NHL assessment camp. Our conclusion was that there was no test to determine whether a player would play in the National Hockey League.reveal.

However, this study was conducted before the current camp formula was adopted. Using force panels during testing, we get a lot of very accurate data. The power of the first two or three steps is of paramount importance in the NHL. I think that over time, due to the quality of the machines used, these tests will allow us to predict whether a player will one day be able to play in the NHL.

In this type of situation, it is important to be able to combine recruiters’ observations with objective data in order to be able to make better decisions in the draft.Pierre Allard added.

He believes that hockey is on the threshold of a new era that will allow teams to make better use of the massive amounts of data they receive.

Meanwhile, team leaders continue to attend the annual assessment camps with enthusiasm and excitement. However, the information they bring in their baggage should be interpreted with caution.

I’ve never seen a player crossed off a selection list because of what happened in Rating Camp. On the other hand, I have seen players being recruited because they have shown on this occasion that they have extraordinary athletic qualities.Pierre Allard reveals.

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