The object of hockey – and any sport, really – is to score more than the opponent.
Methods for putting the puck in the net tend to get more complicated as players get better and older, but in some cases the same tried and true fundamentals are just as important at 10U as they are in the NHL.
For a lesson in how to improve shooting and scoring at the 10U level, we’ve enlisted the help of Dan Jablonic, USA Hockey American Development Model regional manager.
The right stick matters
Stick technology has evolved in amazing ways since the days of the wooden twigs, but that doesn’t mean a 10U player should be equipped with the same sticks the pros use.
“I think the first thing is you start with equipment. With sticks, you have to be careful that you’re not giving an 85 flex to a young kid,” Jablonic said. “These things with their kick points, it’s a little different than teaching kids traditionally how to shoot the pucks. Sometimes the sticks shoot themselves.”
It’s more important for young players to have equipment that supports the learning of the proper shooting fundamentals.
“You want to get a feel for using the stick. Some of the younger kids, especially at 10U, they want to grip it so hard, and there’s no movement on the shaft,” Jablonic said. “Every kid is going to be different, but you want them to get it so there’s some movement and you can shoot at a point where it makes sense for them.”
With the right stick in hand, the key to getting off a good shot starts with fundamentals.
“You want hands away from body, basic things where they see success if they do it,” Jablonic said. “Start with the technique of moving it back on your back foot, transferring weight. That technique is still a good thing to get through that movement and as you progress with young kids.”
Shot speed isn’t as important as proper technique at 10U, he says.
“We want the kids to shoot hard, but at the same time you have to be able to have techniques to be able to do it,” Jablonic said. “In baseball you want to swing hard, and we’ll refine that as we go in hockey.”
Want to be a goal scorer? It won’t be easy, but at 10U a good place to start is by finding open spaces. It sounds simple, but it’s a matter of good hockey sense.
“Scoring comes with ice awareness, and as you start to learn the game from coaches and teams you find out you can never have enough hockey sense,” Jablonic said. “It’s really understanding where the puck is on the ice, finding those open spots on the ice and putting yourself in a position to get yourself to the net. Those are basic offensive concepts. … And get to the net and that area around the net because that’s where the puck is going to be.”
And one of the biggest adjustments from 8U to 10U is that as more players gain skill there is less individual play and more team play.
“You don’t see a lot of kids going end to end as much, so it’s understanding where’s my skill set, and at 10U you’re getting the ability to lift the puck you’re starting to work on those things when you’re in tight,” Jablonic said. “Lift the puck to get it to the net and make the goalie make a difficult save.”
And confidence for all
More than anything, though, shooting and scoring is about confidence – and gaining that is as important as anything at 10U. Goal-scoring confidence comes from successful repetitions in practice.
“Goal scoring is not easy by any means, but when you reinforce it in practice, that energy is contagious,” Jablonic said. “Hopefully it translates to other players.”