4 Habits of Your League’s Best Offensive Forwards

We’re focusing on forwards in the month of November, and to kick things off I thought it was a good idea to consider what the best forwards are doing in your league.

That’s right – we’ve got a crystal ball here at The Coaches Site HQ that lets us take a peak at whatever league you’re coaching, no matter where you are. After all, it’s pretty easy to see what the best players in the best league on Earth are doing – Connor McDavid skates faster than everybody, Sidney Crosby protects the puck better than anybody, and Auston Mathews shoots the puck better than any other hockey player on Earth.

But what about your league? McDavid’s, Crosby’s, and Mathews’ coaches have a much easier job than you do: put those three on the ice. Do you have the same luxury? Or do you have to work with your players to help them rise above the competition at your level? Every hockey league on the planet has exceptional offensive players. Chances are those players possess certain traits, or at least a combination of the following.

1. They’re Unpredictable

The best offensive players at your level are hard to defend because they’re hard to predict. Are they going to cut into the middle of the ice for a scoring chance or are they going to dip their shoulder and drive the net? Do they like to pass or do they have a shoot first mentality? These players have so much confidence that usually they don’t even know what they’re going to do next, and they still execute.

2. Above Average Passing Ability

High octane offensive players can get by without above average speed. Think Nick Backstrom in Washington. They can succeed without an enormous shot, too. But whether they have those skills in their arsenal or not doesn’t change the fat that they all possess better than average passing ability. You can’t post offence if you don’t maker and take passes in offensive situations. And make no mistake, a minimum of two players are responsible for making one pass, and it’s much harder to defend two players than one lone gun-person.

3. Emerging With The Puck

You know what kind of players I’m talking about – the type of player who, whether they’re six or 26, go into the corner with an opponent and emerge with the puck on their stick. Battling is a skill of will, and the best players in your league have it, while the average players only have it sometimes. If your players win battles for the puck more often than not, then you’re going to get the puck out of your zone more often than not, and you’re going to get offensive chances after battles down low in the offensive zone.

4. Shoot vs Pass Radar

This one, I’m sorry, is very difficult to teach. It’s frustrating when you watch players who pass when they should shoot and shoot when they should pass. This point is a combination of the previous three, and it truly all comes down to confidence. Some players try to do too much and it often ends up in an odd-man rush going the other way. But the players who know when to pass, when to shoot, and when to chip the puck in to keep the play alive, are the players who possess the puck and increase zone time.

So what can you do at your level? Practice these skills. A lot of the best offensive players in our game, forwards and defensemen, possess natural instincts and hockey IQ, but every player benefits from improving these skills away from the spotlight of games.

Oh, and have you ever seen a hockey player score a goal and not celebrate, at least a little bit? Scoring goals is fun, so get excited when your players score in practice and get everybody fired up.

In other words, have fun!

Kelvin is the Editor in Chief of The Coaches' Site and an assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds Men's Varsity hockey team.