Q: What Are Some Distinguishable skills at 16U?
A: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach our 2020 Youth Olympic Team in Lausanne, Switzerland this past January. After watching many outstanding 15- to 16-year-old players from around the world compete for YOG medals, I found myself trying to find a few distinguishable skills that made the games as quick and competitive as they turned out.
While the pace of all games was especially quick, it wasn’t just the players’ foot speed that was always the prime factor. The pursuit for puck possession was generally accompanied by a great angle and purposeful defensive stick. Players were tracking opposing players down with speed, but it was the combination of great stick placement to take away options and using proper angling to take away good ice areas. This created more loose pucks and quick-up transition plays that leads to fast hockey.
While puck possession was an important indicator of team success, another distinguishable skill was offensive players’ body position. Whether in high speed chases or in a tightly contested area, many players were able to use subtle change of body position to shield an opponent from the puck. The anticipation from players to beat their opponent to the open ice and keep their body in front of the opponent was a key skill in the offensive players’ ability to retain puck possession. Many times this continued possession led to quick and creative scoring chances.
These skills were noticeable at 16U International tournament. The great part is that these skills can be taught and developed by youth coaches leading up to 16U participation.
Scott Paluch served as head coach of the 2020 U.S. Youth Olympic Men’s Hockey Team who earned silver in Lausanne, Switzerland this past January. Paluch also led the gold medal-winning 2016 U.S. Youth Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. He was previously head coach at Bowling Green and an assistant at Boston College. As a player, Paluch was an All-America defenseman at BGSU.
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