Three-way race for No. 1 in NHL draft still wide open

Young defenceman Aaron Ekblad speaks is surrounded by reporters -- including the Sun's Mike...

Young defenceman Aaron Ekblad speaks is surrounded by reporters -- including the Sun's Mike Zeisberger (right) -- in Toronto at the NHL Scouting Combine. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:16 PM ET

Come Saturday, they will be poked, prodded and physically punished as if they were mere slabs of young puck flesh.

Which, in essence, they are.

Welcome to the NHL Combine workout day, in which many of the world’s elite draft-eligible youngsters will be pushed to the limits in a variety of medical and fitness tests that will involve buckets of sweat pouring from the prospects and dozens of notes being scribbled by league GMs and scouts.

In this particular year, especially, the process should be particularly intriguing, since there is no clear-cut favourite to go first overall.

Indeed, the buzz among hockey execs and scouts polled by the Sun on Friday at the Westin Bristol Place, the hotel near Pearson Airport that is serving as Combine Central, is that the race to be picked No. 1 is wide open between the top three candidates: Barrie defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston forward Sam Bennett and Kootenay forward Sam Reinhart.


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