The Good and Bad from NHL Development Camps

The Good and Bad from NHL Development Camps
What the good drills all have in common, other than following the growing influence of small area games, is offering game-like challenges.

With NHL development camps over, coaches around the internet are sharing videos and drills they saw and discussing how to bring them into their practice plans.

If NHL teams are running these drills, they must be good, right?!

I am not one to say I know more than any NHL level coach, and even a coach running a bad drill will likely forget more about the hockey than I currently know, but that doesn’t mean they get it right every time.

And some of the drills from these camps prove it, while others are great and highlight the direction the sport has been going for years and is now breaking through at the highest levels of the game.

The Bad from NHL Development Camps

Boston Bruins

This drill, run by the Boston Bruins works on puck protection, but lacks any sense of urgency or game-like scenario that puts any real pressure on the defender.

The puck carrier is able to protect the puck without a defender giving much challenge, so you’re not able to see how the player really handles the challenge, and the player trying to get the puck is not actually trying. So you end up with two players giving a lackluster performance and then just easily driving to the net for an unenthusiastic shot. 

What the good drills all have in common, other than following the growing influence of small area games, is offering game-like challenges . . .



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  • Love the close work battle drills. Shrinking down drills even in the neutral zone is amazing. The no stick defending 1-1 is awesome for defense body positioning and keeping on between net and opponent. Love all these drills. Will have to steal a couple. Thanks for the share. Cheers, Chris…
    Coach girls U11 HL team

  • Thanks for putting this together. Really like the all the drills and look forward to adding them into use. Always enjoy seeing what others pick up from these camps! I disagree with “The Bad” drills being bad though. To me, while they lack game-like urgency, they are focused on building/instilling skills and habits that will help in higher intensity and more game-like drills. The puck possession drill works on having good body position and keep the puck away from the defenders stick. The no-pressure puck retrievals give the players reps on pivots, shoulder checks, and getting comfortable with a deceptive move before picking up the puck and making a quick pass. The rim drill gives has the player using their body to seal off the defender. Since I’ve been coaching, we’ve liked to start with drills like these with token pressure before progressing into drills where the same skills have to be used in more intense and game-like situations. Really enjoy all of your articles and look forward to the next one!

  • Really looking forward to incorporating the 2 on 1 that had the forwards mimic a neutral zone turnover. Transition into back-checking , picking up stick, attacking the other way. Liked how they started the 2 on 1 in zone with quick one-touch passes, thanks for the great article!

Dan Arel

Dan Arel is the Director of Coaching Education and Development for the San Diego Oilers and head coach of their 12U A team. He was also named the 2020 San Diego Gulls Foundation's Coach of the Year. You can email him at [email protected].

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