Ever give a thought to how the NHL identifies its next generation of superstars? To be sure, there’s hours upon hours of ice time involved, not to mention, rigorous interviews, medical screening and all the rest of scrutiny that’s given to professional sports candidates.
But the NHL Central Scouting organization, the group that helps NHL clubs identify the best prospects, is trying something different this year. The organization is deploying PHANTOM force feedback devices and OpenHaptics modeling software from SensAble Technologies, along with simulation tests developed by a Toronto-based researcher, to measure player finesses in a virtual hockey game. The scouting group hopes the drill will help them better predict the accuracy of the final rankings of the top 100 draft prospects.
Developed by York University neuroscientist Dr. Lauren Sergio, director of the school’s motor lab, the tests essentially connect a hockey stick to a SensAble haptic device, which is then used to measure a player’s stick-to-ice contact and smoothness as they navigate a series of 3-D virtual obstacles on a computer screen. By doing so, the researchers are able to generate a hand-eye coordination score, which greatly aids in separating the better players from the ones with less impressive on-ice performance, officials involved in the testing say..
As part of their new approach, York University is also planning to analyze four years of similar hand-eye coordination testing data to determine whether the testing, among other indicators, is an accurate measure of predictability those players that are drafted and eventually play in the NHL.