BUFFALO - Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, gifted centers who are expected to be the first two picks in the NHL draft, were fairly even during Saturday's fitness testing at the scouting combine.
In other words, if New Jersey was looking for a reason to make one of the players the No. 1 overall pick based on the fitness results, well, it didn't happen.
The Devils will select No. 1 in the first round June 23 in Chicago, while the Flyers will pick No. 2. The Flyers had a little over a 2 percent chance to get as high as they did in the draft lottery.
It is still considered a coin flip as to which player goes No. 1.
"They're this close," said Craig Button, the draft expert from TSN in Canada, as he held his thumb and index finger an inch apart.
Dan Marr, director of the NHL's Central Scouting, said Patrick and Hischier won't be generational players like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews.
"But they'll be solid franchise players for their clubs once they get established," he said at the combine.
On the ice, Patrick and Hischier are head and shoulders above the other draft prospects, scouts say. But they tested in the middle of the pack in several of the fitness events.
Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) was stronger than the 6-1, 178-pound Hischier in the bench-press (12 reps to 7), but Hischier had the edge in the standing long jump (105.75 inches to 99.75 inches), showing he has explosive legs - a key to a player's success.
"I was really happy about my testing," said Hischier, who, like Patrick, will attend the Stanley Cup Final on Monday in Nashville. "I don't have to prove anything here, but I just did what I can and I'm happy with it."
Patrick said he didn't view the combine, which had 103 players in the fitness portion, as a competition between himself and Hischier. But he did admit to looking at the scoreboard before one event.
"It's tough when you're about to do chin-ups and you see he's atop the leader board, and I [said], 'I've got to put some up here,' "he said. "But you know, I'm not competing against him. He's a great guy and I see he did good in the testing and I'm happy for him."
Hischier, who said Pavel Datsyuk is his role model, did 13 chin-ups, two more than Patrick.
The most grueling part of the fitness testing occurs at the end of the circuit, when the prospects ride a stationary grade-spin bike. They pedal at low resistance for two minutes. To start the test, the athlete pedals at a progressively quicker cadence so that by the time the designated workload has been reached, he is pedaling at his maximum capacity.
The athlete pedals at maximum capacity against the designated workload for 30 seconds.
"I was terrible. I was pretty zonked after that and my breakfast didn't stay down," Patrick said after competing in something called the Wingate cycle ergometer test, which measures a player's explosiveness. "So it was a tough one for sure. . . . It was tough for everyone. No matter how hard you train for that, everybody was gassed and leaving it all out there."
Patrick said he had no ill effects from a sports hernia, which caused him to miss time this season in the Western Hockey League. He doesn't believe he needs more surgery.
Next week, Patrick said, he will travel to Philadelphia and Newark to be examined by the Flyers and Devils doctors. "They just want to make sure I'm healthy," said Patrick, who has been in contact recently with Ivan Provorov and Brayden Schenn, two of his friends who play for the Flyers.
As for the combine testing, scouts say it tells only a small portion of a player's ability. Two years ago, Jack Eichel outscored McDavid in most of the fitness categories.
McDavid, of course, went No. 1 in the draft to Edmonton and has blossomed into a young superstar.
Some have referred to Hischier as the "Swiss Connor McDavid."
"I think it's too much," Hischier said with a smile. "I don't think you can compare [me] to Connor McDavid; he's on another level. He's better than any other player, and it's really like high expectations. I don't like when they call me that."