September 2020 Newsletter
Parents often ask me “what do you look for in players when you scout games?” The obvious answer is someone with a strong skating ability, good hockey sense and solid work ethic. The combination of those three assets will take you places in hockey.
That said, I am also looking for some versatility in a player. If the player’s goal production drops, can he play a solid two-way game on a third line? Can the defenceman move the puck on the power play and be hard to play against on the penalty kill?
Carving out a more versatile role is a problem for some players. This is often because some players are used to playing a certain role in bantam or midget, but don’t quite have the skill to play that same “top-six” or “top-four” role at the next level. Therefore, instead of enhancing their defensive play or adding more grit to their game, they stay the same player and are eventually left in the dust because they failed to adapt to a more defensive role.
A prime example of this is with a forward we followed a couple of years ago. He had good vision, a solid shot and was a decent skater. Moreover, he scored 25 goals at the midget ‘AAA’ level as a 17-year-old. A good hockey player with quite a bit of promise at the Junior ‘A’ level.
When he advanced to Junior ‘A’ though, he was no longer on the power play and slotted in on their third line. Suddenly his weaker backcheck and other poor defensive habits caught up with him. It came down to him either evolving into more of a two-way player or sitting in the bleachers. Going back to the power play and scoring 25 goals wasn’t an option because of the older, more skilled forwards ahead of him.
Long story short, he refused to put the work in to round out his game and ended up bouncing around Junior A teams for a couple of seasons. If he would have carved out an identity as a two-way forward his story would have been a lot different.
It is a good lesson for young hockey players who believe bad defensive habits won’t catch up with them. A versatile game will not only make you more of an asset at your current level, but it could also dictate whether you advance to the next level.