For many aspiring hockey players, the only reference they have for combines is the NHL combine, which does not have an on-ice portion to it yet. However, the WHL performs on-ice testing at their combine, and many other rep, and junior teams want to see players perform both on the ice, and off of it. So we will be using their tests as a benchmark for how to train on the ice. These tests are a fairly accurate representation of some of the things that Junior and Pro teams look at in terms of on-ice testing performance at training camp. They are all fairly simple. The best way to prepare for all of them is to simply practice, there is no real cheat sheet for on-ice performance testing except for hard work.
The first is the Sprint Test. It’s used to evaluate a player’s forward and backward acceleration and speed. In the WHL Combine, this test is done both with and without the puck. That way, the evaluators can also see how good a player’s puck control is at high speed in a linear direction. To prepare for this test, it is best to simply practice it over and over while pushing your limits to continuously get faster. It’s best to have a coach with a stopwatch help out.
Next is the Reaction Test. This test is used to evaluate a player’s reaction time to a change of direction and lateral agility. Players are required to react to random visual signals that indicate a change of direction. Again, this is done with and without the puck. If the proper equipment isn’t available, the best way to prepare for this test is to have a coach signal different cues with a whistle and measure your reaction time. It’s best to always do this with a puck so as to make it easier when the test is done without having to worry about puck control.
The Weave Agility test is used to measure a player’s forward acceleration and ability to maintain speed while performing different directional changes with and without the puck. The player must use their edges to weave in and out of pylons and cones while maintaining good puck control. Again, the best way to prepare for it is to simply perform it over and over again. While most combines generally only do this test using forward skating, it would certainly be extremely beneficial to do it skating backwards as well.
The final test for skaters is the Transition Agility Test. It is used to evaluate a player’s directional transitions between forwards and backwards skating. Again, it is imperative to practice this constantly with puck control. The player’s footwork must be clean and their transitions must be quick. This is another drill where good edges are essential.
While all of these tests are fairly simple to perform in theory, they require constant and intense practice and preparation. Use the lines and circles of the ice to perform and practice different skating techniques and drills. Crossovers are also an important skill to perfect as it is something the evaluators will certainly be looking out for. Training camps and combines can often make or break a player’s career. Preparing for them in terms of skills and fitness is no small task and requires hours of preparation both on and off the ice.