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Prospects embracing RDO camp opportunity

Wednesday, 08.17.2011 / 2:27 PM / 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- From his spot at the end of the bench, goaltender Malcolm Subban had the best view of all facets of Tuesday's first session of the NHL Research and Development Camp on Tuesday.

One the one hand, he was able to watch all the action on the ice, including a few new rules. But when he looked across the rink, he saw the stands here at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence packed with NHL scouts, general managers and coaches.

The heavy hitters of the NHL are on hand to see what potential rules changes look like in action, but they're also able to get a first look at some of the best players available for the 2012 Entry Draft.

"You know they're here to do the job they do every year, so it's no different for them," said Subban, who plays with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. "For us it's different because this is our draft year. This is only our first sighting, so we have to just play our game."

That's easier said than done for the players.

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"I think in warm-up, I was nervous looking up," said Daulton Siwak, a center with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

"I was a little nervous, but once you get into it; it's fine," added Andreas Athanasiou, a center with the London Knights of the OHL. "It's a little nerve-wracking when you see everyone there, a packed house. Once you get into the game, though, it's better."

Goaltender Chris Driedger from the WHL's Calgary Hitmen said seeing all the scouts in the stands actually helped him a bit.

"I just tried to focus on the game and not worry about what's in the stands too much," he said. "It helps me focus a little bit … knowing it's important, I play well. I just try to focus on the game on the ice."

The first session featured a few tweaks to the game, among them shallower nets, no line change for a team that goes offside and no icing while shorthanded.

NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan said the number of changes was kept to a minimum for the first of the day's two sessions for a reason.

"We knew the kids would be nervous and come out with a lot of energy, and they did, so we took it pretty easy on them in the first session, we didn't want to throw too much at them," said Shanahan. "We had a few variations in there. We thought it was a good opportunity in Session 1 for people to get their skating legs."

It was easier for some than others. Athanasiou is one of a number of players who just returned from playing for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

"I'm a little tired form it, a little jet-lagged, but I'm getting used to it," said Athanasiou. "The opportunity to represent Canada was unbelievable."

Athanasiou said the opportunity to showcase himself at this camp is just as important.

"It was a great feeling," he said of getting the invitation. "It's the NHL Research and Development Camp. A lot of players would want to be here. Just getting that offer was an unbelievable feeling."

Subban said knowing which players took part in last year's camp made getting an invitation to this year's event that much nicer for him.

"I felt really thrilled," he said. "I know that they had it last year and there were a lot of good guys there last year. It's a real honor just to get (invited). You can see when you get invited to something like this they consider you as one of the top guys."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory