Although he has received nominations in the past few seasons, Mark Stone has never won the Frank J. Selke Award. A second-place finish in votes is the closest the Vegas Golden Knights winger has come to grabbing the trophy. But even if Stone hasn’t been appointed the best defensive forward in hockey yet — it’s an honour that seems reserved for centremen — you would be hard-pressed finding many other forwards who exhibit the same level of skill on the defensive side of the game.
Similar to strong shutdown forwards, Stone limits the offensive threat of the opposition through keen positioning and sound puck management. But what separates the winger from his competition is his ability to intercept passes, to launch his team on the attack with well-timed stick placements. It’s an ability all young players should strive to learn.
Stone is not content reducing risks by reacting to the moves of attackers. By reading systems, shoulder checking, and using deception, he dictates the flow of the play and sets up traps in which attackers can’t help but fall for.
1. Reading systems
Great puck snatchers come prepared for their games. They know the other team’s system and their own; they know which defensive positions they have to fill and the tendencies of opponents. By skating in the right spots at the right times, they capitalize on the pressure applied by teammates and collect the puck as it’s funeled to them.
In the video below, on the forecheck, Stone recognizes that an opposing defenceman is forced to attempt a strong-side breakout. He heads to the wall as F2 and steals the pass.
In the next clips, Stone quickly attaches himself to an attacker after a turnover. He skates inside the passing lane and gets rewarded with the puck.
Shoulder-checking is key to tracking movements of opponents, and in turn, to intercept passes. Many scoring chances can be stopped with a quick peek towards hidden ice and a change of stick positioning.