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Prospects drawing a crowd at NHL research and development camp

There are 27 potential changes being looked at during the NHL's research and development camp and it's possible that not a single one will ever make its way into the league.

The same can't be said of the players who are serving as guinea pigs this week.

One of the most important aspects of the two-day event is the fact top prospects for the 2012 draft are the ones competing in scrimmages with the different rules. Even NHL executive Brendan Shanahan, who is in charge of the camp, harbours no illusions about why roughly half of the league's 30 general managers interrupted their summer vacation to attend.

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"The truth is that we coax a lot of them here with the 36 best 17-year-olds in North America," Shanahan said Wednesday. "It's sort of once we get them under the roof, as they're scouting these kids, they get trapped into a conversation about hockey and the future of the game.

"It's funny — I think there are some guys that are passionate about the rules and the game, but I think most are here to see the players."

The stands were packed at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility for the camp's first two sessions on Wednesday. The attendees included a number of scouts with next to no interest in the modified icing and faceoff rules, among many other things, on display.

Instead, they were closely watching Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov, Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray and Halifax Mooseheads winger Martin Frk — among the most highly rated prospects for next year's draft.

Yakupov, in particular, made a strong impression.

"You could tell he's a dynamic player," said Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who is coaching one of the teams at the camp.

The prospects themselves are viewing this as a bonus opportunity to make an impression. The NHL is holding the research and development for a second straight year and a number of top picks participated last summer, including eventual No. 1 selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

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"I felt really thrilled (to be asked)," said Malcolm Subban, a goaltender for the Belleville Bulls and the younger brother of Habs defenceman P.K. Subban. "I know that they had it last year and there were a lot of good guys there last year. It's a real honour just to be represented.

"You can see when you get invited to something like this that they consider you as being one of the top guys."

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