NHL to put new ideas to the test this week

More than 30 of the top prospects for next year’s NHL Draft will be on the ice in suburban Toronto this week for a camp where they’ll get to make an impression on NHL teams, and they’ll be lab rats as well.

The 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility. The main focus of the camp is to test some potential rule changes and other ideas that could enhance the game.

Veteran coaches Ken Hitchcock and Dave King will be directing the prospects on the ice. A lot of league officials will be watching, including NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan.

"I think everyone involved with the NHL thinks that our game is in really good shape," Shanahan told NHL.com. "I think that this is just a way of being progressive and keeping ourselves well informed of not just the fact that things work but why they work. Most companies or industries have research and development and that's exactly what this is: it's studying our own product."

None of these ideas is expected to be implemented this season, and who knows if any will ever see the light of day. If some do they may end up being variations of what’s done at this camp. That’s why you experiment. See how it looks and go from there. Give the league credit for being open to ideas.

Some of the ideas already exist elsewhere. No touch icing will be among the ideas tested. Others have been floating around for a while. Not being allowed to ice the puck when shorthanded will get a look.

There will be variations of rules already in place. There are no line changes now for a team that ices the puck. In this camp the league will test no line changes for a team that goes offside and the faceoff will be moved into the zone of the offending team.

Overtime will get at a lot of attention. In one scenario the league will examine three minutes of 4-on-4, three minutes of 3-on-3 and then three minutes of 2-on-2. That will be followed by a five-man shootout.

The league will use that same overtime scenario, but have teams change ends of the rink to get the long line change like the second period of regulation. The hope is that the long line change will create more mistakes and more opportunities. That will be followed with a shootout that has three players. If the shootout is tied after three shots then players who have already shot can shoot again.

There also will be a 4-on-4 overtime with the long line change followed by a five-man shootout.

Faceoffs will get some attention too. The goal is to cut down on cheating. In one scenario the puck will no longer be dropped. Instead, it will be placed on the ice and players will battle for it on the sound of the whistle.

In another test the puck will be dropped for the faceoff, but if there is a violation the non-offending center can pick his new opponent in the faceoff circle. I don’t think the opposing goalie is an option, but a defenseman would be.

Another test with faceoffs entails moving the dots in the attacking zones to the middle of the ice, leading to draws in the slots.

Again, they are just ideas to be evaluated. It can’t hurt to try and some may actually turn out to be good ideas and better the game.

The league’s official site is promising extensive coverage of the camp and there will be coverage on the NHL Network, which will provide a recap on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. According to NHL Network's online listings it’s scheduled for 9:30 pm Central Time on both nights.

For a complete list of ideas that will be tested you can go here.

NHL.com’s special section on the camp, which includes an archive of stories, can be found here.