NHL monitoring new OT format

An overtime format that has already been implemented in the American Hockey League could be on its way to the NHL.

Could significantly reduce amount of shootouts

The NHL is taking a close look at a new OT format that has been implemented in the American Hockey League. (Harry How/Getty Images)

This rookie just may be called up from the American Hockey League after catching everyone's attention in an impressive debut.

Sorry, though, it's not the next Sidney Crosby, but a new overtime rule that should allow players like Crosby to showcase their skills even more with the game on the line.

The minor-league organization has long been the place to experiment with new directives, just to see how well they work — or don't work — before the NHL takes a look. Some (oversized blue lines) weren't popular. Others (not being able to change players after an icing call) have been promoted.

The new OT rule possibly could be coming soon to an NHL rink near you.

"It's certainly entertaining for fans and a lot of fun to watch," said David Andrews, the president and CEO of the AHL for the last 21 years.

Currently, the NHL uses a 4-on-4 OT model for five minutes. If no one scores, then it goes to a shootout.

But here's how the extra period works on the AHL level: It's seven minutes long — or until someone scores, of course — with the opening three minutes 4-on-4. Then, after the next whistle, it switches to 3-on-3 for the last four, leading to lots of room for creativity and scoring chances. If that doesn't decide things, it goes to a shootout, a concept that drives many a coach bonkers since it's almost like a skills competition.

Results are noticeable

That's the thing, though. This new overtime system has cut down significantly on shootouts.

Last year, the AHL had 65 per cent of its OT games decided in a shootout, Andrews said. This season, it's shrunk to 25 per cent.

Even more, of the 99 overtime games so far, 35 of them have been decided in 3-on-3 action.

Initially hesitant over the newfangled OT ordinance, Roy Sommer, the coach of the AHL Worcester Sharks, has warmed up to the idea. He thinks it would be a big hit with fans and players on the next level.

"If you put your three best NHL players against each other with all that ice and creativity, man, it would be something to watch," said Sommer, one of the all-time winningest AHL coaches. "I know I wouldn't leave."

As for when — or even if — this version of overtime arrives at the NHL level, that's hard to predict. In a statement, the NHL's hockey operations branch said the league follows "the American Hockey League and other leagues closely. ... We're always interested in ways to make an already great game better."

Colorado and Toronto had a 3-on-3 situation in overtime earlier this season after both teams drew penalties. It was riveting as players raced from end-to-end, unable to risk heading to the bench for fear of an odd-man rush going the other way.

"If we did this, there's no way games would go to a shootout," Colorado forward Matt Duchene said. "As much as shootouts are fun to watch, I'm not a big fan of them, because it stinks to finish a game on a non-hockey play.


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