Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft on how to develop elite centres

In Coaching Hockey, Skills, Tactics by Kelvin CechLeave a Comment

Playing the centre-ice position in the NHL isn’t easy. In fact, it isn’t easy at any level. The middle of the ice is sacred ground whether you’re in the offensive zone or the defensive zone. It takes a crucial set of skills.

While those skills are a challenge to learn, acquire, and master, Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft explained at this past summer’s TeamSnap Hockey Coaches Conference in Toronto that they aren’t difficult to recognize and teach. “Great centres, they don’t get great overnight,” said Woodcroft. “If you want to encourage your centres, they have to embrace that responsibility.” Mark Scheifele is a gifted young centreman who patrols the middle of the ice for the Jets, but as coaches we all know that simply possessing those gifts doesn’t guarantee success at the highest level of competition.

Luckily for Scheifele, he’s got a coaching staff in his corner that includes Woodcroft, who is entering his 20th season in the NHL serving in a coaching or scouting role with the Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames before joining the Jets in 2016. It’s often not the flashy skills that earn a coach’s trust according to Woodcroft. It’s the little details, like showing a good passing target, or the fine line between skating too fast or too slow in the defensive zone.

“Elite two-way centres see the problems and solve the problems before they become problems,” Woodcroft explained. The best centres in the game make their teammates better. They give their defencemen an outlet in the d-zone, they carry the puck through the middle of the ice in the neutral zone, and they drive offence in the offensive zone. And the great thing is, Woodcroft and the Jets are ironclad proof that coaching can have a big impact on a centre’s ability to learn and master those skills.

Woodcroft comes back to our conference every summer, and his presentations are about as jam-packed with helpful knowledge as it gets. You don’t want to miss this one. Key quotes from Woodcroft’s presentation:

  • “The best teams in the world work to protect the middle of the ice defensively and offensively. Entries are a controlled invasion of the other team’s zones.”
  • “The DNA of a centre: a threat in each zone, the conscience of your team, puck transporter, responsible down low, understands the importance of defending.”
  • “Centres exist to create the conditions for their teammates to perform. How do you get your centres to embrace this role? Show them the importance of the relationship, and encourage the D to have confidence in centres in all zones.”

Check out the trailer below and watch the full premium video with a TCS membership.


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TCS|Members Ice Hockey Coach Tips and Drills Todd Woodcroft

About the Author
Kelvin Cech

Kelvin Cech

Former editor in chief of The Coaches Site, current head coach of the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.


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