Coach Greg's Skill Sets for Youth Hockey

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Game Knowledge

  1. 3 is the Key/Magic number in hockey
  2. 3 Key parts of the game to master (individual skill/team strategy/time-space management)
  3. A triangle is the most dangerous shape in hockey (3 sides/points)
  4. 3 Zones (Defense/Neutral/Offense)
  5. 3 Lanes (Left/Center/Right)
  6. 3 Face-off areas (know if defensive/neutral/offensive)
  7. 3 Game Styles to play (Low risk/Neutral/High risk)
  8. 3 Rules of Hockey to avoid bad situations
    1. Last man back can’t lose the puck
    2. Go with the flow of the puck
    3. Choose a defensive vs. offensive approach for battles on the boards
  9. 3 Rules of Defense
    1. Make a Wedge - Force your opponent to an outside lane (start when gap is big)
    2. Get attacker to his back-hand side lane when possible
    3. Physical contact between blue line and top of the circles
  10. 3 Rules of Offense
    1. Take immediate advantage of your opponent's defensive mistakes (don't hesitate)
    2. Be a threat with or without the puck (attacking and supporting)
    3. Create odd-man situations (attacking/regrouping/breaking out)
  11. 3 Rules of Goalie
    1. Attitude (Lining up on the puck from eyes down to skates)
    2. Angle (Developing good defense angles to taking control of the attack)
    3. Agility (footwork, stickwork, pads work, quickness and recovery)
  12. 3 Types of Body Contact - (separate the player from the puck - not kill them)
    1. Along the boards
    2. Into the boards
    3. Open Ice
  13. Never fight a fair fight 
    1. Odd man rushes rule the game 
    2. Out-number your opponent in all offense and defense situations
  14. All  players on the rink have offensive and defensive responsibilities
    1. We have possession of the puck (think Offensive)
    2. They have possession of the puck (think Defensive)
    3. Nobody has possession of the puck (think Defensive first)
  15. 3 edges of your skates (inside/outside/neutral)
  16. 3 parts of the stick blade (heel/sweet-spot/toe)


  1. Individual Skill - Player and Goalie

  1. Skating - Player
  1. Forward and Backward
  2. Bending knees/skating low
  3. Transition Skating (north-south/east-west)
  4. Edge control and body balance
  5. Stride - using full leg thrusts and utilizing the whole skate blade
  6. Crossover/Cross-under (knee over/under knee)
  7. Stopping on both feet and both edges
  8. Tight turns/Escapes/Cutting
  9. Roll out/Loose turns
  1. Skating - Goalie
  1. Goalie Stance (Eyes, Body, Blocker, Glove, Pads, Skates, Stick)
  2. Forward (heels) and Backward (toes) Shuffle Stride for Small Area Movement
  3. Forward and Backward Long Stride for Big Area Movement
  4. 1 Pad dips Forward and Backward with long stride skating
  5. T-Glide vs. Side shuffle (roller) or Side Slide (ice)
  6. Post to Post movement through the crease
  7. Post to Point movement (post to top of crease)
  8. Post to Point to Post movement (post to top of crease and back to same or opposite post)
  9. Crease to Slot forward skate to Cover or Poke-check puck
  10. Half Butterfly and Recover to Goalie Stance
  11. 1 Pad Slide and recover (left and right)
  12. 2 Pad Stack and recover (left and right)
  13. Goal Protection from Wrap-Around shot
  1. Puck Handling - Player
  1. Top hand controls the stick and Bottom hand guides and adds strength
  2. Understanding stick positioning relative to the body
  3. Understanding hand positioning on shaft
  4. Understanding puck positioning on blade
  5. Forehand / Backhand cupping the puck
  6. Starting and Stopping with puck
  7. Wingspan - The distance the puck can move from each side of the the body while still having control
  8. Deking
  9. Pivoting on the puck
  10. Skating forwards and backwards with puck
  11. Transition left/right and forward/backward with puck
  12. Tight turns/Escapes with puck
  13. Transitioning from skating to shooting on the fly
  14. Dribbling (in front left to right, on both sides fwd to back, and diagonally across body)
  15. Roll out/Loose turns with speed and control
  16. Puck protection while skating and while static
  1. Stick Handling - Goalie
  1. Stick control with hand position from paddle to top knob
  2. Blade position and angle relative to pads and skates
  3. Blade vs. Paddle usage
  4. Static Poke Check
  5. Skating/Diving Poke Check
  6. Blade to Paddle Coverage
  7. Redirecting a shot on goal to specific areas (left and right)
  8. Stopping a shot on goal and clearing the puck to specific areas
  9. Stopping a rimming puck behind the net and setting it for a player (left and right)
  1. Passing / Shooting - Player
  1. Forehand / Backhand
  2. Sweep pass
  3. Saucer pass
  4. Skate pass
  5. Bump/Bank pass (using the boards)
  6. Drop Pass/Reversing the puck
  7. Tape to tape passing (precision passing)
  8. Tape to zone passing (area passing)
  9. Wrist shot
  10. Snapshot
  11. Slap shot
  12. One-time Shooting/Tipping/Redirecting shots on goal
  1. Passing / Clearing - Goalie
  1. Forehand / Backhand
  2. Sweep pass
  3. Saucer pass
  4. Clear the puck using Glass
  5. Bump/Bank pass (using the boards)
  6. Rimming puck to clear it or pass it to a player

  1. Team Strategies

  1. Team Offensive Strategies

  1. 3 Rules of Offense
    1. Take immediate advantage of your opponent's defensive mistakes (don't hesitate)
    2. Be a threat with or without the puck (attacking and supporting)
    3. Create odd-man situations (attacking/regrouping/breaking out)
  2. Time of Possession (TOP) affects the outcome of games 
    (Opponent can't score if they don't have the puck)
  3. Team TOP will increase as Individual TOP decreases
    (The avg Team TOP in the NHL is 5 sec or less, we want 2-10 times that)
  4. Identify your opponents Defensive strategies and find weaknesses and strengths
  5. Trust your team mates and let them trust you to make good decisions with and without the puck
  6. When we have the puck we are on offense
  7. Things you can do when you get the puck
    1. Pass to weak/strong side forward or backwards - make the easiest choice
    2. Skate to open rink or toward support
    3. Shoot the puck
    4. Strategically dump but never throw the puck away
  8. All players on the rink have offensive responsibilities
  9. The puck must always have strong/weak side support - the more support, the more options, the harder to defend
  10. Forwards must come back to support the puck in the neutral and defensive zones
  11. Offensive puck possession through all 3 zones (breakouts, regroups, attacks)
  12. Weak-side/Off Side vs. Strong Side support and movement
  13. Opening the backdoor on the goalie 
    (pulling the goalie to the strong side and creating weak-side/backdoor support)
  14. North South vs. East West puck movement (rush vs. patience)
  15. Use of Points, High Slot, Quiet Zones, Secret Zones, and Back Door
  16. Strong-side defense holds the blue line / weak-side defense is last man back (offensive zone)
    1. strong-side D holds blue line from blue line to middle of face-off circle on boards
  17. Creating Odd Man Rush situations (2on1, 2on0, 3 on 1 and 3on2)
  18. Creating good Angles of Attack (AOA) in the Offensive Zone
  19. Regrouping in the Neutral or Defensive zones
    (bringing the puck back only as far as it needs to get out of harms way)
  20. Cycling the puck in the corners creating 2 on 1 situations
  21. Cycling the puck in neutral zone D2F while regrouping creating 2 on 1 situations
  22. D2D pass creates time and space for setting up cutting wings or weak side openings
  23. Using same board D2F pass when D2D is covered Defense passes to supporting/trailing wing
  24. D2D supporting the puck below the goal line in defensive zone 
    1. D2D cycling strong side of net while pulling attacker from net to strong corner
    2. D2D cycling weak side of net while pulling attacker from net to strong corner
    3. D2D pass behind the net to the open defenseman - corner to corner
    4. D2D reversing/cycling behind the net drop pass - using the net as a shield
  25. D2D supporting the puck above the circles in the offensive zone 
    1. Utilizing the defensemen at the point and high slot in an offensive attack
    2. F2D cycling positions or puck along boards in offensive zone
  1. Team Defensive Strategies

  1. 3 Rules of Defense
    1. Create a wedge - Force your opponent to an outside lane
    2. Get your opponent to his back-hand side lane when possible
    3. Physical contact between blue line and top of the circles
  2. Identify your opponents Offensive strategies and find weaknesses and strengths
  3. Man-on-Man vs. Zone defensive strategies
  4. Puck must exit the defensive blue line to stop the attack in our zone (Ice)
  5. Taking advantage of having 2 defensemen vs. 1 attacker
  6. Keep/Clear the puck out of our House 
    (slot/box area in front of our net is the high percentage scoring area)
  7. Smart aggressive fore-checking creates havoc on your opponent's breakout
  8. Smart passive fore-checking creates havoc on fast breakout teams (underdog mode inline)
  9. Aggressive back checking by forwards creates havoc on your opponent's attack
    (Always back-check through the middle lane)
  10. Angling your opponent - "The art of herding" your opponent to where you want him to be
  11. Control/Influence your opponent’s puck moving decisions before contact is made
  12. Pressure vs. Contain
    1. Aggressive fore-check in offensive zone to force turn-over or bad pass
    2. Soft/Smart fore-check in offensive zone don’t get beat in their zone
  13. Forward’s area of responsibility in the defensive zone 
    1. High Slot and strong side Point coverage, center attacks puck
  14. Good checking affects one man show games, must use physical play (Ice)
  1. Special Team Situations
  1. Penalty Kill defensive strategies of square and triangle/diamond (wedge vs. box)
    1. stagger pressure before our blue line then protect the house under the blue line using zone defense
    2. sit back and set up for an attack
    3. aggressively fore check the puck
  2. Penalty Kill – offensive strategies of square and triangle 
    1. maintain possession of the puck and use the clock (use the whole rink)
    2. spread the rink (4 corners) and create offensive opportunities
  3. Pulled Goalie is to create scoring opportunities (must think/act offensively)
  4. Must have Offense
    1. high risk play to put the puck in the net
  5. Must have Defense
    1. low risk play to prevent shot on goal or to maintain possession


  1. Time and Space Management

  1. Time - Clock Management

  1. Understanding the value of Time of Possession (TOP)
    1. I estimate a team possession to be 10 seconds which would be the longest amount of time for a player to skate from 1 end of the rink to the other without passing
      (in the NHL/College team possessions last 5 seconds or less)
    2. there is an estimated 234 possessions in 39 minutes of play
    3. the average cumulative Shots On Goal  in a game is 50-60,
      of these only 5 - 10 result in goals
    4. that leaves an estimated 180 changes in possession that don't result in a shot on goal, if the possessions last for at least 10 seconds (usually they are much shorter)
    5. Taking the extra time to regroup, bring the puck back vs. forcing it forward into a turnover, and moving the puck quickly to open players will increase TOP and your chance for a quality shot on goal while preventing your opponent from controlling the puck
    6. Aggressively taking the puck to the net is still a very important part of the game
  2. Dumping the puck vs. tying it up on the boards or regrouping (keeping possession)
  3. Understanding which game mode to play and how that relates to the clock
    1. Neutral risk  (normal play in the game)
    2. Low risk  (close game or we have the lead)
    3. High risk (we need a goal, focus is on offensive attacks)
  4. Recognize running or stop clock game play
  5. Penalty Kill - controlling the other team/puck for 120 seconds
  6. Penalty Kill - Offensively have TOP by spreading support and maintaining possession
  7. Power Play - using 120 seconds to set up a flurry of odd-man attacks with no turnovers
  8. Power Play - setting up the plays and positions with options, sell the deception, finding the open man, and using the clock
  1. Space - Rink Management
  1. Understanding the opportunities created when given Space
    • The average rink size is 180' x 80' - 200' x 100'  (est. 14,400'SF - 20,000'SF)
    • A regulation goal is 4' x 6'
    • A puck is 3" wide
  2. Understanding Gap Control
    1. offensively keep a large gap away from your opponent by moving the puck to open rink
    2. know when to aggressively attack vs. regroup
    3. defensively manage the gap from your opponent measured by the threat he can create
  3. Understand how to gain and use space offensively
  4. Understand how to take away and use space defensively