The best goal scorers at the top levels of hockey can, of course, answer the basic question of “where” they want to be in order to score. Usually, the simple answer is as close to the net as possible.
The nuance of scoring at the highest levels also demands that they be able to answer several other “W” questions along the way: When to make the move to scoring position; why certain tactics are effective; who to pay attention to; what the objective is; and of course how to score, period.
Ken Martel, technical director for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, lays out a lot of those answers as they pertain to 12U players and helps them gain an edge by describing good habits that create scoring opportunities.
Gaining separation from a defender is a good start, Martel says.
“At 12U it’s starting to learn how to get away from someone who is marking you,” he says, “and then trying to separate yourself.”
This can be achieved by quick and creative skating bursts.
“Players get lazy and you’re easy to defend when you are constantly skating forward,” Martel says. “What allows you to separate is stop-start, change of direction, but it takes a lot of work. You have to work hard to create space for yourself.”
In any sport, there is a subtle art to pushing up to the edge of the rules without getting caught. Seemingly incidental contact happens all the time in football and basketball, creating an edge for offensive and defensive players.
Hockey is no different. There are subtle ways to shrug off defenders without taking penalties.
“You can start at 12U to show kids how to push off. It’s not interference, but at the net front, a forward is going to stand there and battle and jockey,” Martel says. “That person has you covered. Don’t battle for position. Battle for the puck. Be there when you’re supposed to be there.”
Another good tip is that just because you think you’re open doesn’t mean you really are. If a teammate can’t get you the puck in prime scoring position, being in that position is moot.
“They want to stand in front of the net and say I’m open instead of understanding there are two opposing jerseys between you and the teammate,” Martel says. “You need to get out of the shadow of the opponent and into that passing lane so that someone can get it to you.”
In that sense, timing and ice awareness are critical.
“Can that teammate see you? Can you see that teammate? Just because nobody is around you doesn’t mean that you’re open. Create that lane,” Martel says. “And then can I be available when my teammate needs me to be available? It’s no good to jump to the hole when your teammate has his back to you. It’s the timing of that.”
One other critical piece, Martel says, is finding small slivers of space where you might not look open but where in fact you can get a stick on a puck.
Having your hands and stick free but your body covered is much better than the other way around.
“Teach kids how to get your hands and stick free – even if your opponent is right next to you,” Martel says. “How do I position my body so my teammate can see my stick blade? It’s like protecting the puck before it gets there. I’m going to keep my body between the opponent and the stick, trying to get my hands and stick free so I have a chance to receive the puck. Maybe all I have to do is redirect the puck.”
Martel says that as players get older and master those techniques there are more complex methods to get into a good scoring position. But for now?
“These are things you can start to teach,” he says. “Create a passing lane, get separation, be available when teammates need me and get your stick free.”
Tag(s): ADM Features