The most important aspect of the draft combine (other than the medical testing) is the interview process. All 30 teams get to sit down with as many prospects as they want and get to know the kids. Some teams are nice, some are intimidating. And while the talks are nerve-wracking, some prospects have more at stake than others.
Two of the best examples this year are Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires and Anthony DeAngelo from the Sarnia Sting. Both Ontario Leaguers bring incredible skills to the table – Ho-Sang's 85 points came from his magical hands and vision, while DeAngelo's acumen from the point made him the highest-scoring blueliner in the league with 71 points in 51 games.
But the reason DeAngelo only played 51 games was because of two suspensions. In both cases, he was found to have violated the OHL's harassment, abuse and diversity policy. One of those incidents involved making an "inappropriate statement to a teammate."
Plenty of stories are floating around the hockey world about the specifics and DeAngelo knows it.
“Teams are going to ask about it and I’m going to be honest, I’m not going to hide anything," he said. "It’s not a big deal; that’s all in the past.”
There's no doubt DeAngelo is a competitor and a talent. He was invited to Team USA's world junior camp in the summer and turned down a scholarship to Boston University in order to play in Sarnia (where he could play sooner).
“It was a quicker development route," he said. "My goal is to get to the NHL and the fastest way was to go through the ‘O.’ ”
Ho-Sang was also suspended this year, but for injuring London's Zach Bell. That 15-game ban (which many found dubious in the first place) was knocked down to six games on Tuesday. Which is obviously good news for the Spitfires star, who has been forced to defend his attitude and personality at the combine.
“I want to let teams know who I am and about my core values as a person," he said. "Also, to answer any questions about my character. Teams get the chance to know the real you if they ask the right questions. It’s an interesting process.”
Some scouts see Ho-Sang as too much of an individualist on the ice, though the youngster is more than happy to answer questions on the topic at the combine.
“It's little things like body language," he said. "That’s something that might be misinterpreted on the ice: Is it body language towards your teammates, or personal? For me, it’s personal. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I think every elite athlete should. If you miss a chance when you think you should score, you put your head down. That stuff just happens during a game.”
Ho-Sang cites Patrick Kane as a hero and notes that the Chicago Blackhawks star has similar traits. But the teenager's best point may have been an obvious one: These NHL teams are evaluating 18-year-olds, a group where maturity is often a work in progress. Many an NHL superstar went through trials during that age and they came out the other end, so why can't Ho-Sang and DeAngelo?
“Just take the time to get to know me before you write me off," Ho-Sang said.
At least 18 teams decided to do just that this week in Toronto and it only takes one for Ho-Sang to hear his name called in the first round. DeAngelo is in the same boat and if either can plead their cases successfully at the combine, their wait on draft day will be shorter and sweeter.