The cream of the crop for the 2011 Entry Draft will get their first taste of life in the NHL when they report to the Toronto Maple Leafs' training facility in Etobicoke, Ont., to take part in the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled by G Series on Aug. 18-19.
The purpose of the camp is for team officials to get a look at possible rules changes -- with the extra benefit that 33 of the top 2011 Draft-eligible prospects will show off their skills while bringing those changes to life.
"This Camp has the bonus element of giving general managers and their staffs an early season look at many of the players whose names they will be calling out as their teams' top-round selections in the June 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul," said E.J. McGuire, Director of the NHL Central Scouting. "These are some of the most talented players available to execute the unique skills and strategies which the camp is designed to test and evaluate."
"This will be a great learning experience and opportunity for these players," said NHL Vice President Hockey and Business Brendan Shanahan. "Team personnel get an up-close look at these 2011 Entry Draft prospects while we hope to provide the players with a fun and informative two days."
Among the players participating will be Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier. The 6-foot-3 1/2, 193-pounder tied for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League scoring title last season, with 96 points in 68 games. A candidate to be the first player picked at the '11 Entry Draft in Minnesota, he was one of two draft-eligible players to participate in Hockey Canada's national junior orientation camp, held last week in St. John's, Nfld., which will go a long way in shaping the team's roster for the 2011 World Junior Championship.
With his size, skill and defensive ability -- he was a league-leading plus-62 -- one scout compared him to Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal.
"I think that is a fair comparison," Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray told TSN. "Sean and Jordan are both big-body guys who can skate well and can both do what a team needs them to do -- go out on the third line and be a shut-down guy or be the leading scorer like he did in the Quebec League."
"He's got the size, can shoot, sees the play," Chris Bordeleau, NHL Central Scouting's Quebec scout, told NHL.com. "He's got all the tools."
Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Nathan Beaulieu joined Couturier at the Hockey Canada camp, and he'll also be at the NHL event. The 6-1, 175-pound blueliner had 12 goals, 45 points and a plus-43 rating last season, and 16 points in 21 playoff games to help the Sea Dogs reach the QMJHL finals.
"It's a great honor, coming off the World Juniors camp," Beaulieu told NHL.com. "My summer has been busy so it's another thing to prepare for. This camp is right before my season starts so it's a good way to go into the season and I'm very honored to be picked."
On a defense corps that featured high NHL draft picks Simon Despres and Yann Sauve, he didn't get much top-pair playing time, but managed to stand out.
"He's got all the tools, good skater," said Bordeleau. "He was really noticeable last year taking the puck, even though he wasn't playing that much."
Another top defenseman on hand will be Adam Clendening, who will move from the U.S. National Team Development Program to Boston University in the fall. Clendening led USNTDP defensemen with 49 points in 65 games last season, and in international play he had a team-best 20 points in 18 games. Among that was a team-best 10 points in seven games for the U.S. at the World Under-18 Championship in Belarus. He helped the U.S. win gold and earned a spot on the tournament all-star team. He also spent the early part of August attending USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp, which puts him in the running for a spot on the 2011 U.S. World Junior Championship team.
"Last season as an under-ager on a team that had so many draft (eligible players), I spent my time watching them," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He did, however, jump out at you playing on the power play with his high level of finesse and skill. He is an excellent skater and hard to pin down when forechecked. He has a very good shot from the point. He is also very adequate in his own zone."
Swedish-born left wing Gabriel Landeskog, who starred for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers last season, will take part in the camp. The 6-foot, 200-pound left wing was third among first-year OHL players with 24 goals and 46 points last season.
"I think it'll be an exciting camp and I'm looking forward to it a lot," Landeskog told NHL.com. "There's going to be a lot good players there, I know that. I just feel like it's going to be a great measurement for me to see where I'm up to (against) other high-ranked players for next year's draft. I think I have to go in there and focus on myself and do what I do best and have fun with it."
Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was one of the top scorers for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, will be one of the most watched players at the camp. The 5-foot-11 1/2, 155-pound center was tied for fourth among first-year WHL players last season with 65 points in 67 games.
"He's got skill, smarts and he's one of the best skaters in this draft," Peter Sullivan, a Western Canada scout for Central Scouting, told NHL.com. "His biggest asset would be he always wants the puck and is very exciting to watch."
"He's a very good puck handler … the kind of player that you could term as having the puck on a string," added B.J. MacDonald, another Western Canada scout for Central Scouting. "A very good, instinctual player. Once he has possession of puck, it's very hard to get it away from him."
Nugent-Hopkins is one of 13 players currently with Canada's team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Canadians were the only team to go undefeated in round-robin play and will face Sweden in Friday's semifinal.
Two members of the U.S. team that will be playing the Czech Republic in Friday's other Hlinka semifinal will be at the camp -- Omaha Lancers right wing Seth Ambroz and Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Keegan Lowe.
In all, 20 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goaltenders were picked for the camp. They will be led on the ice by veteran coaches Ken Hitchcock and Dave King.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com