Jim Nill reflects on RDO camp
08.19.2010 / 4:48 p.m. ET
Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill had pen and paper in hand during the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp fueled by G Series on Wednesday and Thursday.
For Nill, it was a chance to see 33 of the top 2011 draft-eligible prospects and those proposed rule changes in action.
"We're here to really look at new rules, but the added attraction and added bonus to it is it's an opportunity to identify a bunch of the kids coming up for the draft," he said. "You've got to be careful what you do. It's not like we're making final decisions but it gives you a chance to identify them and it's great exposure for them and for us as we get to see new rules."
Nill felt the prospects did a fine job considering the circumstances.
"They had to think a little differently, they couldn't ice it or had to be careful on the line change," he admitted. "They're used to taking it easy coming off. It makes them think, but I think it's a great experience. They're young kids and getting exposure to media, crowds, scouts while playing great hockey against great players is a positive experience. You're dealing with the best players for this year's draft -- these kids all have great skill sets."
One of the most impressive players during the two-day session was left-shooting center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League.
Hopkins, who was one of four assistant captains for gold medal-winning Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial earlier this month, was named the WHL's Rookie of the Year after helping lead Red Deer to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
"Everyone knows the Hopkins kid is a top pick," Nill said. "At the Hlinka tournament in Slovakia, he was one of the top players. He's not a hidden secret and he's played well (at RDO camp) even thought he's been sick. He's got good hockey sense, creates time for himself and he's got the gift."
--Mike G. Morreale
Shanny closes camp with class
08.19.2010 / 4:05 PM ET
In his wrap-up media session at the RDO Camp, Brendan Shanahan expressed his amazement at watching all of the kids that put their heart into every shift over the last two days.
"It went really well, and the group I have to thank most is the kids that came and played," Shanahan said. "The skill level of these 17 year olds, to be able to do what we asked them to do at an NHL level and also the compete that they brought to the scrimmages, was just great. I don't think I could have done it when I was 17 years old. It just bodes well for the future of the game of hockey."
Shanahan has never viewed this project as one with a finish line. Now that the data has been collected, it's time to pore through it to figure out what worked and what didn't. There is still plenty of work to be done, but, as Shanahan said, "the hard part is done now."
"Right now it's all about collecting information," he said. "The general managers will definitely give feedback, and I think our coaches are going to be weighing in and people from Hockey Ops. We collected a lot of information and statistics. We had a whole team of people tracking scoring chances, what all the rules meant and how they affected the game. It'll take a little while to put all that together and we'll have an archive of information from this camp."
Most important to Shanahan was the dialogue he overheard coming out of all corners of the Leafs' practice facility.
"What pleased me the most was the conversations and the dialogue that we had from our managers, our coaches, the fans in attendance, the parents, fans reading up on it and also the players," he said. "It was really encouraging for me to walk by and overhear the players discussing what they had just done or even between periods what they were going to do and how they were going to try to manipulate certain rules to their advantage. I think any time you can provoke conversation about the game it's going to help.
"We collected information that could come in handy tomorrow or it could come in handy 5-10 years from now," he added. "We have built a model that if we ever need to do this again, I think using the 17 year olds in a setting like this with a couple of ice pads -- we now see there is an appetite from the player perspective and there is an appetite from the managers and scouts who want to come and watch. Whatever reason you came here, whether it was for the research and development or to scout these kids, the big thing is we got a lot of really good hockey minds all under one roof talking about the game, which is good."
-- Dan Rosen
Conversation on character
08.19.2010 / 3:35 PM ET
During the lunch break on Day 2 at the NHL's RDO Camp the players were briefed by Al Young, Senior Manager, Security, for the NHL. Young speaks to every one of the League's 30 teams each season as a reminder of how a NHL player can best present and comport himself. Brendan Shanahan, a NHL vice president and director of the camp, informed the 35 prospects that he had heard Young's talk numerous times as a player and always learned something new.
Young suggested the 17-year-old hopefuls put a premium on building and protecting their reputations. "Success in life and the NHL is all about character," he said.
Part of building that character is heeding the words of someone like Young, a retired New York City police detective. Happily, Young appeared to have the rapt attention of the group.
"I am giving you information today, how you use it is up to you," said Young. "I say the same thing when I talk to NHL players."
In both words and a prepared video, Young stressed the importance of understanding how the Internet can have its potential pitfalls, especially for anyone in the public eye. He emphasized that players seek good advice to manage both their money and their reputations.
Young identified the best resource for all of the players and, in fact, every 17-year-old on the planet: "Your parents, if you still have them, are the smartest people you will have in your life. They are the always going to be the ones that are 100 percent behind your best interests."
-- Bob Condor
Dave King's 3 favorite changes
08.19.2010 / 12:24 PM ET
Phoenix assistant Dave King, who is coaching opposite Ken Hitchcock here at the RDO Camp, offered his three personal favorites after the third of four session here at the Leafs' practice facility.
King started by saying he's a fan of the delayed penalty modification which would require the team that has committed the infraction to not only gain possession of the puck to force a whistle, but to clear it out of its own zone.
"I think it will create more opportunities for power plays," King said. "You'll be able to get your goalie out and actually get a 6-on-5 going in the zone so I think it's going to help a bit to create some offense."
King mentioned that he's a fan of the faceoff variation that requires a player who commits an infraction on a draw to not clear out of the circle, but instead to move back a foot and try again.
"I think that faceoff rule will allow us to create more faceoff plays that generate chances because there were far less scrums in the faceoffs and that's good," he said. "I thought we had a lot of clean wins and clean losses and that's good. That makes for a better faceoff situation."
Finally, King mentioned one of the more subtle changes that was tested Wednesday strictly for the Hockey Operations staff that work in the Toronto war room: The yellow verification line, which is situated behind the goal line and would be used in video reviews to determine if the puck did indeed cross the goal line. If the puck is seen touching the yellow line, it has to be a goal.
"Even with the replays, we still have situations where important goals are touch and go sometimes as to whether they are really in," King said. "I think that line is going to add a little bit of help to the referees and the linesman and those replays will be good because the reviews will be clear."
-- Dan Rosen
Ken Hitchcock's 3 favorite changes
08.19.2010 / 12:17 PM ET
Following Thursday's morning session here at RDO Camp, Ken Hitchcock mentioned three changes that he particularly would be interested in seeing the NHL adopt.
Hitchcock started with his affinity for switching sides going into 4-on-4 overtime to create the long change. He said in the two games that switching sides for overtime was tested there were six goals scored. The overtimes lasted only three minutes.
"That's a lot," Hitchcock said. "I think it creates a number of problems, way more odd-man rushes. I think there will be a number of games decided in that situation."
Hitchcock then reiterated a point he made Wednesday in that he definitely wants the NHL to go to the hybrid icing, which gives the linesmen discretion on making an icing call depending on how the race to the puck is playing out.
"I think it's a smart, safe way to play and it still creates the competition for the puck that's necessary and it doesn't look any different," he said. "If it saves one hockey player getting hurt at our level than it's going to be beneficial."
Finally, Hitchcock went off the radar a bit and said he liked the wider blue line, which was extended to 24 inches from 12 inches and tested in Wednesday's second session.
"I know I'm probably in the minority, the big blue line really created offensive opportunities for your power play," he said. "We have had to use the width of the ice on the power play to be more effective but this would finally allow us to use the depth of the ice on a power play. If you have a smart team and two smart point men, like if you looked at (Brian) Rafalski and (Nicklas) Lidstrom, and they had that extra mileage to work in they would be really dangerous."
-- Dan Rosen
Nieuwendyk discusses face-off variation
08.19.2010 / 11:00 AM ET
For most of his 19 NHL seasons, Joe Nieuwendyk was one of the game's leading faceoff men, routinely finishing among the top three in faceoff percentage.
With plenty of proposed new faceoff looks and variations being tested at the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled By G Series on Wednesday and Thursday at the Maple Leafs' practice facility in Toronto, the current general manager of the Dallas Stars obviously was front and center.
There were three variations of faceoffs tested at the RDO camp. The first required both centers to take their appropriate positions while the puck was placed on the faceoff dot, and the draw then commenced on the official's whistle. A second variation required a player to move one foot further back if he committed a violation on the draw -- causing a loss of leverage and strength on the ensuing draw.
While Nieuwendyk appreciated the effort in trying out the proposed new changes, he wasn't so keen on making a change.
"I think when they do it like this it comes down more to quickness; I do like where we're trying to go with it but there still are some holes with it," Nieuwendyk told NHL.com. "Faceoffs in the NHL are a neat thing and it's a battle situation. This took away a little of the battle to it, so I think there's some progress that could be made still."
There were a few changes that Nieuwendyk seemed to like.
"I liked the wider blue lines, creating a bigger zone to allow defensemen to have a little more room to work with and straddle that line," he said. "The change I really liked was the depth of the net (from 44 inches to 40 inches). It created a goal in the one morning session and it allows guys to get wraparounds a little tighter. I thought that was good."
The shallow net provided more space behind the cage, enabling players to get a little more creative with the puck.
-- Mike G. Morreale
Faceoff variation gets a look
08.19.2010 / 9:45 AM ET
It took about seven minutes before the faceoff variation on the agenda Thursday morning got its first test. And the linesman nearly missed it.
A player on the white team was whistled for cheating on a faceoff in the black team's zone and immediately the wing, in this case Zack Torquato, immediately jumped into the circle to take the draw. The linesman was about to drop the puck when he realized, 'Wait a minute, there is a change to this rule being tested this morning.'
Just prior to dropping the puck he pulled his arm back and told the centerman on the black team you get to pick your next opponent. The center immediately pointed at the left defenseman, who had to come in from his spot to take the draw.
And, wouldn't you know, the defenseman won the draw.
-- Dan Rosen
RDO Camp ready to resume
08.19.2010 / 9:30 AM ET
The RDO Camp continues Thursday morning at the Leafs' practice facility with several more tests on the agenda, including no-touch icing, which has gotten an icy response from just about everyone in attendance here. But, as Florida GM Dale Tallon told NHL.com on Wednesday, it can't hurt to at least give it all a look and see what sticks.
"Hey, it's fine, let's try it," Tallon said. "Nothing ventured and nothing gained, right? Might as well. Let's give it a shot. Let's take a look. I might change my mind. I'm going in with an open attitude about it."
Among the other rule changes or modifications that will be tested in the morning session Thursday is a faceoff variation that is sort of radical. If a centerman commits an infraction he will be chased out of the circle and the non-offending player will get to pick anybody that he wants to take the draw as long as that person is on the ice.
The goal of this variation is to restore the fairness and integrity of the draw. Too many times players go in and cheat and don't get called for it. Or, too many times once a player is run from the circle the next player that comes in gets away with cheating because the referee does not want to blow the whistle again.
The League will also again take a look at not allowing the offending team to change lines if it is ruled to be offside. That one is picking up some steam from GMs around the arena. But, in a twist to the rule, the ensuing faceoff will now be back in the offending team's zone, so it's really a double penalty for going offside.
The ice will be a little more open in this session as well as one of the referees will be stationed off the ice, perched above the glass near one of the blue lines on the opposite side of the benches. A delayed penalty rule will be tested in which the team that has committed the infraction not only has to gain possession of the puck but also get the puck out of their zone before the ref blows his whistle.
Once the teams are shorthanded they will not be allowed to ice the puck without penalty. Icing will be called on the shorthanded team and they will not be allowed to make a line change.
When the game goes to overtime, the teams will switch ends like they do after the first period. The goal here is to create the longer line change which in turn should lead to more offensive chances. This is another one that has gained a lot of steam among the stewards of the game.
There will be a shootout variation after overtime in which five players from each side will participate and after they've all gone, if the score is still tied, the shootout proceeds to a sudden death format. In this instance, there is no limit in the amount of times a player can take a turn.
And, finally, in probably the most subtle test of the morning, the mesh on the top of the nets has been replaced by plexiglass, which Hockey Ops believes will increase their visibility for overhead video reviews. The concern is the puck hitting the plexiglass and bouncing out so quickly that it can't be seen by the naked eye.
-- Dan Rosen
Burke's take on several ideas
08.18.2010 / 5:48 PM ET
While Toronto GM Brian Burke is a fan of adapting a hybrid icing rule, he is not at all a fan of what played out in Session Two here at the RDO Camp. That's when the more radical changes were tested, including the three faceoff circles down the middle of the ice, which was intended to move the play into the middle of the ice and limit whistles.
"No, I'm not big on this one," Burke told NHL.com. "I'm not sure it adds anything. I'm not sure what it does, but whatever it is I don't like it."
He might not be a fan of those new faceoff circles, but Burke said the NHL should definitely look into having teams change sides after the third period of a tie game, which would force them to make the long line change in overtime. Over the last 10 years, 37 percent of goals scored in the NHL were scored in the second period when the long line change is in play. Thirty percent have been scored in the first period and 33 percent in the third, but that number includes empty-net goals.
"To me, anything that puts offense back in the game and reduces the number of games that are decided by shootouts I would support generally, so think we have to look at that," Burke said.
He is not a fan of seeing the shorthanded team whistled for icing even though that was tested in the second session Wednesday and it turned out to create more scoring chances for the shorthanded team because instead of sending the puck down the ice they were forced to skate it out of the zone.
Still, Burke said he isn't a proponent of it, at least not yet.
"If we put that rule in I think you'd see players flipping and chipping pucks out and you get a quicker attack that way because they don't have to go all the way back, so it might add some offense but I'm not sold on that one yet," he said.
He is sold on the NHL holding the RDO Camp.
"To me this is very innovative and creative on the part of the NHL," Burke said. "I think we should always be looking at how we play the game and how we can make it better. I think too many rule changes confuse fans, but in general we should be looking at how we play the game to see if there is a way we can make it better for the fans."
-- Dan Rosen
Prospects learn value of social media
08.18.2010 / 4:20 PM ET
Those 2011 draft-eligible players were presented a golden opportunity to learn about the value of the ever-growing social media on Wednesday during a break in the action at the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp fueled by G Series.
Kerry McGovern of the NHL's public relations department presented the prospects with a slide show showing the good and bad of the internet craze that has long been sweeping the nation -- Twitter. The Importance of Social Media presentation took place at the Seaman Hockey Resource Center inside the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility.
All prospects were in attendance, as was NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan.
"(Social media) is a way they can control their own messages," Shanahan told NHL.com. "It's an opportunity to speak about charity ventures and give the fans a little bit more of an insight into how they're feeling and how they do what they do."
Most of the prospects in attendance claimed to have a Facebook account but very few raised their hands when asked if they 'Tweeted'. McGovern then informed the group that Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby had no followers since he didn't own a Twitter account, while Washington's Alex Ovechkin totaled 41,000 followers. She then asked the group if anyone had ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk, who had 852,000 followers. No one raised their hand but everyone was pleasantly pleased with the New Jersey wine expert's take on the social media during his 15-minute rap session.
It was enlightening, to say the least.
Vaynerchuk is a New York Times bestselling author and American businessman who was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States as a young child. From a platform as co-owner and Director of Operations of Wine Library, a wine retail shop in Springfield, N.J., Vaynerchuk gained fame as the host of Wine Library TV, a daily internet webcast on the subject of wine. He also knows a little about the social media and how to build a reputation as one of the most talked-about and discussed wine experts in the world.
He discussed the importance of the social media and how each youngster could potentially change the culture of hockey by doing the right thing for their team and the (NHL) shield via Twitter, Facebook, ect.
"People want to be heard and, you, as professional athletes, can have a major impact," Vaynerchuk said. "You want to care about the fans, that's what it's all about. Boy, do I wish I was one of you."
McGovern then presented the players with seven Rules to social media success:
1-Always remain focused on your message
2-Take a team first approach
3-Set a good example
4-Be interesting, not controversal
5-Establish yourself as the real deal
6-Become a fan favorite
7-Don't let your guard down
--Mike G. Morreale
Hitch elaborates on offside rule
08.18.2010 / 1:37 PM ET
One of the new rules tested in the first session of the RDO Camp here at the Maple Leafs' practice site in suburban Toronto was the inability for a team ruled to be offsides to make a line change. Ken Hitchcock, who was on the bench coaching opposite Dave King, said that had a "huge impact" on the game.
"If you're offsides and you have tired people on the ice it has way more impact than if you ice the puck and you're not allowed to change," Hitchcock told NHL.com. "If you ice the puck all you do is get it out and your focus is playing in a little area and getting it out, but if you have tired guys on the ice you either got to race to the bench and take your chances or you could get caught where you have to play 150 feet and that's a real problem."
Hitchcock claimed there were three goals scored and 10 scoring chances created by making players stay on the ice for going offsides.
"That's a lot," he said.
But, as a coach, does he like the idea of not allowing the team to change lines when ruled offsides?
"I want to see more of it," he said. "I don't know where it's going to go, but there were more scoring chances created by making your players stay on the ice."
-- Dan Rosen
08.18.2010 / 1:28 PM ET
Team Black won the first "game" at the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp Wednesday, 9-6. The game featured altered rules, including a hybrid icing call during which the official can blow the puck dead if the defender obviously is going to touch the puck first once the player reaches the face-off dot, no-puck-drop faceoffs and an overtime period that reduces play from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 to 2-on-2
NHL Vice President Brendan Shanahan is running this camp. He said he "liked how defense quickly turned to offense" during the 3-on-3 portion of the overtime. Ken Hitchcock, coaching Team White, agreed with Shanahan on the potential for scoring during a 3-on-3 OT.
"Two-on-two is a bit gimmicky, but if the OT goes from 4-on-4 down to 3-on-3, the puck will be in the net," said Hitchcock. "I really believe we won't get to so many shootouts ... too many times coaches can work to keep a 4-on-4 scoreless and get to the shootout. There is a lot of work going into shootout players and not the 4-on-4."
Another rule change for the morning session was no line change for a team that goes offside. Shanahan and Hitchcock both noted that at least two goals were scored because of tired players on the ice.
"It leaves you vulnerable," said Hitchcock. "It forces mistakes by the tired players, especially on defense, and creates opportunities for the other team. It would make players work harder not to be offside. It makes offside a big deal."
-- Bob Condor
Sea Dogs, Rangers head prospect list
08.18.2010 / 8:35 AM ET
The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League each lead the way with three players apiece participating in this week's RDO camp.
The Sea Dogs originally had four: defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Jurco and Zach Phillips. Jurco, however, opted to remain in Slovakia for educational purposes until September according to a team press release.
"We're a young team but we have a lot of good players and have had a couple of good drafts and it's showing right now," Beaulieu told NHL.com. "We're coming into the league hard now and it shows with the three kids we have here this week."
Among those participants from the Kitchener Rangers are forward Gabriel Landeskog, defenseman Ryan Murphy and goalie Mike Morrison.
Landeskog, a powerful 6-foot, 200-pound left wing, was named the team's Rookie of the Year and to the OHL All-Rookie First Team in 2009-10 after producing 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He debuted in the Swedish Elite League in 2008-09 with Djurgarden as the youngest player in team history -- at 16 years, 90 days.
The camp opens Wednesday morning at the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility in Etobicoke, On. The 33 prospects in attendance will take part in two hour-long sessions. The rule changes they'll see on Wednesday include:
*Hybrid icing rule
*No line change for team committing an offside
*Crease reset rule
*Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop)
*Overtime: three minutes of 4-of-4, three minutes of 3-on-3, three minutes of 2-on-2, followed by shootout (5 players per team).
*Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line)
*Wider blue lines
*Line changes zone in front of each bench
*Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice)
*No icing the puck while shorthanded
*OT - three minutes of 4-on-4, three minutes of 3-on-3, three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team in the shootout (if tied after three shots, then players who have shot previously can shoot again)
--Mike G. Morreale
Prospects look forward to RDO camp
08.17.2010 / 11:00 PM ET
Upon arrival at The Westin Bristol Place in Toronto, several of the 2011 draft-eligible prospects were patiently awaiting their turn to receive their exclusive one-on-one interview with NHL Studios on the second floor.
Afterwards, I had an opportunity to chat with a few of the players regarding their golden opportunity to perform before scouts, general managers and coaches during the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled by G Series this week.
"You want to go out there and play the game you know, but they've added a couple of strings to it," prospect Nathan Beaulieu of London, Ont., told NHL.com. "I did look over the rules, and it'll be interesting to see how they work out. But we're here to play hockey and it's serious when we get on the ice. It's a game and you have to respect it."
Beaulieu, a defenseman for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was one of two players invited to the camp who also participated in Hockey Canada's national junior orientation camp held earlier this month in St. John's, Nfld. Sean Couturier of the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs is the other.
The only prep high school participant at the two-day camp, Philippe Hudon of Choate Prep in Connecticut, was grateful to have an opportunity that so few high school players receive.
"The fact I play in the U.S. at the prep school level, we don't really get that many scouts watching us," Hudon told me. "It's a small place and league, as compared to the CHL. So having everyone here, giving my very best impression is important to me. I just want to get my name there, so later on, if they hear my name, they know who I am. I want to take advantage of that on the ice at this camp."
Hudon, a forward who'll attend Cornell University in the fall of 2011, helped lead Choate to the New England Prep Championship with a 21-6-1 record. He's scored 20 points in each of his first two seasons at the Connecticut prep school.
Goalie Tyson Teichmann of the OHL's Belleville Bulls is looking forward to showcasing his ability. Teichmann is one of three goalies, including John Gibson of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Mike Morrison of Kitchener of the OHL.
"It'll be fun and neat to experience," Teichmann said. "I'm going to go in there and just try and stop pucks, basically. It's definitely going to be neat seeing new things, but I'm just going in there to stop pucks and play my game."
Teichmann, incidentally, made 22 saves to lead Team Canada to a 1-0 victory over Team USA in the gold-medal game of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial on Aug. 14 at Zimny Stadium in Slovakia. It marked Canada's first title-game shutout victory in four years.
--Mike G. Morreale
Shanny learning through RDO
08.17.10 / 8:30 PM ET
Brendan Shanahan has been the NHL's Vice President of Hockey and Business Operations for less than one full calendar year, but this experience as the man in charge of this major summer project has sped up his learning process dramatically.
"It's been a great learning experience and it's not a whole lot different than playing and being a leader on a hockey team," he told NHL.com Tuesday. "You hope to have good teammates and you get out of their way and let them do their job. That's what I have been blessed with on this project. I have assigned specific jobs and I have the right people in place and I've let them do their job."
While this is Shanahan's first real pet project as an NHL employee, this is obviously not his first date with rule changes and modifications in the NHL. He, of course, held the famous Shanahan Summit in 2004 right here in Toronto that led to the development of what we see played out 1,230 times every season.
This also isn't the first research and development camp the NHL has run. They did one here in 2005, but the players on the ice were overage players, most going nowhere with their hockey careers. The fresh-faced 17-year-olds arriving here at the Westin Bristol Place are the future of our League, and their first foray into the NHL is as guinea pigs testing out potential changes.
However, as Shanahan is quick to note, the benefits for these kids far outweigh…well, there are no negatives at all.
"We've had a lot of scouts say they're really curious to see these kids' hockey IQs, their ability to think on their feet and adapt to these changes as much as they are in their skating abilities and scoring abilities," Shanahan said. "These are all guys eligible for this draft that it makes it a very unique scouting situation. At the same time we're explaining to the players and the scouts that we don't want this to be overly taxing. We want this to be fun. Let's face it, this isn't going to be about who is going to lead this camp in scoring. Some of these kids are going to be asked to play with rules or in positions that are unfamiliar to them and it's more to see how they adapt and how they're able to respond."
-- Dan Rosen