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RDO scrutinized faceoffs, power play, overtime

by EJ Hradek /
ETOBICOKE, Ont -- The 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp wrapped up Thursday with another rule-bending scrimmage and an All-Star skills competition.

Here are some random thoughts about the two-day experience:

* Judging by itinerary, the League was most focused on three particular areas during the camp: improving the integrity of faceoffs, finding ways to increase power-play scoring and tweaking the current overtime format. While Brendan Shanahan and his hockey operations crew were able to take a good look at the different variations in those three parts of the game, I don't think there's anything -- outside of perhaps switching ends for the beginning of overtime (and that remains sadly unlikely for the coming season) -- that would be implemented in the near future.

The number of tweaks to faceoff protocol during the three scrimmage sessions led me to believe that hockey ops will be having a long preseason discussion with its on-ice officials about acceptable etiquette in the circle. It seems cheating off the draw has reached unacceptable levels.


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The Research, Development and Orientation Camp, allows the League to test potential changes to the game ranging from subtle to more drastic. READ MORE ›
* There's no doubt amateur scouts just love this unique early opportunity to see 36 top draft-eligible prospects in one place. Any birddog within a couple of hundred miles of the MasterCard Center of Excellence could be found in the stands over the past few days.

"It's a great opportunity to get a base feel for a particular player," Flames Director of Scouting Tod Button said. "The more information you can have on a player, the better. Being so early in the process, this camp can really help in plotting a schedule for the year. If you're impressed by a guy that you didn't know too much about before this camp or a key summer tournament (like the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial), you know you have to make plans to go see that player on his team during the season."

There's another thing that Button really likes about seeing these high-end prospects in the camp setting.

"In this format, there's not as much coaching involved, so you can get a better feel for a player's skill set in one-on-one situations," Button said. "When these guys are on their regular teams, they're playing in a much more structured environment."

* While there has been much debate about instituting a "hybrid" icing rule to replace the current touch icing as a way of improving player safety, I didn't get the sense there's anywhere near enough consensus to make that happen anytime soon. The main concern that I heard from a number of League and team execs in attendance centered around giving the linesman too much responsibility to make the proper judgment on races for the puck. I guess we can file this debate under the heading of "to be continued." 

* It's interesting to note that 12 of the 36 prospects participated in the camp after spending the previous week in Eastern Europe competing in the Hlinka tournament. Team Canada gold-medal winning defenseman Morgan Rielly, for example, traveled from Breclav, Czech Republic to Vancouver on Monday before re-packing his bags for the trip back to Toronto on Tuesday. Amazingly, the kid didn't look any worse for the wear.

The execs and scouts unanimously praised all the prospects for their willingness to participate in the camp. "It really tells you how much these kids love hockey," Button said.

Malcolm Subban at 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp. (Photo: Getty Images)
* There were three prospects with family ties to the NHL. Belleville (OHL) goalie Malcolm Subban is the brother of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Kingston (OHL) D Alex Gudbranson is the brother of the Panthers' top pick in the 2010 draft, Erik Gudbranson.

U.S. Under-18 team forward Miles Koules, the son of former Lightning owner Oren Koules, was the third with an NHL connection. The shifty winger impressed several of the scouts with his heady play and his knack around the net. Koules showed off a nice finishing touch, scoring a pair of goals in the scrimmages and clipping eight targets on just 10 shots during the skills competition.

The proud father, a former Canadian junior player during his teenage years, said his son plans on attending North Dakota in the fall of 2012. 

* Finally, the absolute highlight of the All-Star Skills competition was provided by Sudbury (OHL) center Mathew Campagna, who, in the Breakaway Challenge, carried the puck on his stick blade while holding the stick with one hand over his head. When he got to the net, he launched the biscuit at the net. I don't think that move will do him a bit of good during his upcoming junior season, but it was pretty cool to watch him do it on a summer afternoon.

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