Virtually anyone who takes a passing glance at Colin Wilson would conclude that he is well-conditioned.
The Nashville Predators’ top draft pick in 2008 (seventh overall) packs a solid and sturdy 215 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame. His arms are big, his legs thick and his chest broad.
Yet a passing glance was not enough for the franchise’s training and medical staffs, who took a much closer look at Wilson and 19 others with a cutting-edge conditioning test administered on the first day of the team’s rookie camp.
“I work out hard, and I love to work out,” Wilson said. “I don’t think anything I could have done could have prepared me for that. That was something I’ve never experienced.”
The truth is neither had anyone else prior to Wednesday. Wilson was the last of 20 Nashville Predators’ rookies and prospects who were put through the paces of the first-of-a-kind on-ice test designed by the team’s strength and conditioning coach Dave Good.
The basics of the test are that players perform a skating drill specific to their position – forward, defense or goalie – and are timed as they do so. They repeat the pattern a total of six times with a 30-second break between each.
The increase in the time it takes from the first to the sixth attempt offers insight into the respective player’s fitness level. At the same time, numerous other specific data is gathered, including sprint speed, heart rate and blood lactate level.
The veterans will be put through the same test Saturday when they report for the start of training camp.
“It’s not an easy test and it’s not supposed to be, so it’s going to give us a really good indicator of their conditioning and what they did during the summer,” Good said. “… This is purely our test. We came up with it.
“It’s going to provide us the most sport-specific test we can use.”
The blood is tested with a sample taken moments after the player completes his sixth turn and again two minutes later. The second sample, for example, gauges the player’s ability to recover.
“You’re basically collapsing on the bench while they take your blood,” defenseman Jonathan Blum, a first-round choice in 2007, said. “You’re trying to catch your breath, your head’s spinning and a guy just … pokes your finger and squeezes it.”
Good said he began the process of developing the test at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season. He solicited input from other strength and conditioning coaches throughout the NHL and had discussions with several peers in Germany and with Team Canada.
“We got a lot of information that we drew from and … put our own flavor to it as well,” Good said. “We think we have the best test going.”
In previous camps, the Predators used a pair of bike tests – one to measure lactate and one to test power. Having replaced two tests with one, Good believes he has streamlined the process without having limited the amount of data he and the medical staff gain on each player.
It will take several years worth of tests and comparison before the annual results are understood fully, but Good said he was confident this first time gave the Predators all the information they needed on the team’s top young players.
It also gave those players something to look forward to – so to speak – at future training camps.
“It’s nice to kind of get the hardest part of camp out of the way,” Wilson said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”