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12U: Why the Wrist Shot Still Reigns Supreme

10/21/2020, 9:00am MDT
By Michael Rand

At the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, the hardest shot competition elicits many of the biggest cheers and dominates the highlights.

However, it is the more humble, hard-working wrist shot that is the true winner when it matters most. In the 2018-19 NHL season, wrist shots accounted for more than half of the 7,577 goals scored in the league.

Slap shots? Fewer than 10 percent.

It stands to reason, then, that if you are a 12U player gathering with friends to work on something specific to make you a more prolific goal scorer, you can focus less on the big windups and work on the finer points of the wrist shot.

Dan Jablonic, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, has some tips on how you can do just that.

Effort In, Results Out

In regards to repetition leading to success, Jablonic points to an example from this year’s NBA bubble. Players who couldn’t do much except work on their shooting in isolation were more accurate on free throws and three-pointers than they were before the coronavirus break.

Similarly, a wrist shot in hockey is something you can work on just about anywhere.

“The great thing about our sport is any effort you put in you’re going to get out,” Jablonic said. “If you take some time off ice, just take a tennis ball to the side of a garage or wall. Practice the motion of bringing the puck back, getting it away from the middle of your body, work on the transfer and follow through.”

Work the Angles

That said, a strong and accurate wrist shot will only get you so far. If you give a goalie a clean look at a puck, there’s a good chance it will be saved.

“The more agility you put into it – shooting off one foot, shooting off balance, going down to one knee and having a contest who has the quickest release and accuracy,” Jablonic said. “Who is deceptive? That’s even more important.”

That’s why Jablonic also advises working on the subtler points of the wrist shot to develop a true scoring sense.

“Personally I learned the hard way. I could shoot the puck but I didn’t have the other things that make up scoring sense,” he said. “When you look at it, it’s about figuring out when to shoot, using someone as a screen, the push-pull, when the release should come. It’s those little things a big goal-scorer understands.”

Shoot to Score

All of that is designed to create a mentality of scoring instead of simply shooting – and that mindset can be enhanced through the right kind of practice, Jablonic says.

“There’s no question that’s something you can build in during practices at 12U. You want to have things resembling games,” he said. “You want traffic like a small-area game instead of going unopposed, 1 on 0 and shooting the puck. You want players forced to make a decision before they shoot a puck and understanding how to receive that pass and get their body ready to shoot in relation to the net.”

Some 12U players might have a reputation already as natural goal scorers. Some of that might be earned via hockey sense, but some might just be a function of being more physically mature than others at that age. It’s important for all those players to keep working, Jablonic says.

“You need to have patience and let the kids progress. Put them in good situations and keep those practices going,” Jablonic said. “There might be kids who can really shoot the puck, but that doesn’t mean other kids can’t do it at 14U or 16U. There are always earlier developers or late developers.”

Make It Fun, Not Work

Stick technology has made shots harder. Goalies are a counterweight, with their increasing skill necessitating a shot have accuracy, deception and speed to have a good chance of winding up in the back of the net.

It all sounds like a lot of work – but it should be fun.

“Like anything else, when you are at 12U don’t make it a job that you have to go shoot pucks. Do it as a competition with friends,” Jablonic said. “Like any other skill, it takes time to develop. Keep listening to coaches and find out what works for you. Turn weaknesses into strengths and try a different variety of things for different situations.”

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Tag(s): ADM Features