3 Keys to Being an Effective Defenseman

3 Keys to Being an Effective Defenseman
These key attributes can be applied to defencemen at all levels.

Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kevin Bieksa recently described the play of Edmonton’s newly acquired defenseman Mattias Ekholm, talking about three keys Ekholm brings to the Oilers. These three keys can be applied to defensemen at all levels.

The ability to defend the one-on-one

Net-me-man positioning, stick on the puck, free hand on the hips.  The priority is to strip the opponent of the puck, but if you can’t get the puck, to play the body and wait for defensive support.

The ability to make the first pass

The key to your team’s offence is for the defensemen to move the puck north to your forwards. The fundamentals of passing and receiving must be drilled from a young age. We prefer the forward push pass and use the following cue words, “LOOK, PUSH & POINT.” Once the fundamentals are established, the defensemen must work on their backward skating, turns (backward to forward, forward to backward), and overall agility and edge work.  The other keys are to back for pucks quickly as possible, do a shoulder check to see if there is any pressure on you and locate open teammates. If there is pressure, use some deception to shake off the forechecker, pick up the puck at an angle and LOOK for the most straightforward play possible. We emphasize the “three-second rule” with our team: get the puck out of the zone in three seconds.

The last skill or ability is to be “hard” to play against

Bieksa refers to being hard to play against as being “nasty.” After a one-on-one and you don’t get the puck, finish your check on the forward with your body. We tell our forwards to go the net and go into the “tough” areas. Forwards don’t like to do that if the defensemen are physical and make the forward “pay the price” to stand or go to the front of the net. Playing defence is a specialized position and requires a lot of hard work and repetition of fundamental skills. If you keep Kevin Bieksa’s three tips in mind and practice them, you will be well on your way to being an effective defenseman.

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Enio Sacilotto

Enio Sacilotto is President of International Hockey Camps and operates the Mental Edge High Performance Training. Enio has 39 years of coaching experience (professional hockey in Europe and the WHL's Victoria Royals). Currently, he coaches at the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy and the Croatian National Men's team. If you have questions or are interested in his services, contact Enio at [email protected] or call 604-255-4747

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