Post #101 – 6/28/23 – What Coaches Look For

With The Summer, Comes Important Evaluations

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The Answer is… It Depends

Coaches often get asked – So, what do you look for in a player when recruiting?

Truth be told, there is A LOT that goes into recruiting a student-athlete. There is the hockey piece of course, but there are academics, character & personality, is she a good human, among a whole host of other factors.

But on the hockey side of things you might be surprised at the answer you’d get. If you asked 10 different coaches, you would probably get 10 different answers.

There is no standard across the board, All-coaches-want-this-type-of-player answer”. What one coach may value, another may not. What one coaches wants, she or he – may not be able to get.

It Depends… is the more probable answer. Because like art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in the case of recruiting, coaches are the beholders.

So with all the summer showcases, tournaments, and camps to come, here are some basic/general, but important, answers to that question above – What Do Coaches Look For?

At the end of the day, coaches are going to look at how you help your team defend and or create offense. I say it this way because scoring or creating offense is HARD! Not everyone can be that kind of player. The alternative of course, is being a responsible defender. WHICH at minimum most coaches would say, you need to be to be able to do. If you can’t defend and you can’t create offense, it’s really hard for a coach to use you–plain and simple.

Let’s look by position at some general, but really important areas, that NCAA coaches evaluate when watching players.

For Goalies… it goes without saying but, stop the puck. It’s more than just that however. How are you stopping pucks? Are you just blocking shots or are you able to control rebounds and put them to a safe area away from second chances? Or can you eat pucks and not give up rebounds at all? Do you stop dump-ins and set pucks up for your Defenders? Are you communicating to your team? Are you deep in your crease or out on top of it? Are you tracking pucks well through traffic?

For Centers… Face-offs are the one situation that happens the most in a game. Can you win draws? Do you tie up opposing centers on an offensive zone face-off win or just let them go by you? Are you positionally sound in your D-Zone? When the puck is at the point, are you trying to play goalie to block a shot, or have you identified your check and stuck with them?

For Wings… Breakouts are a key game component. Can you break pucks out and advance the play for your team with possession? Or do you turn pucks over in your own zone with ill-advised passes to the middle? Do you just dump pucks out and give up possession? In the D-Zone can you defend? Can you defend an opposing player trying to cut the high seam around the top of the circle or are you able to defend the opposing defender on your side of the ice trying to shoot and block their shot? Can you get pucks back when your team doesn’t have it? Do you take good For-Checking angles to cause turnovers and gain back possession?

For Defenders… Breakouts again – are key… can you retrieve dump-ins and manage breaking the puck out with success? Do you make a good first pass? Are you passive in defending your own end? Do you puck-watch when the opposing teams’ Defenders have possession at the blue-line and lose your check? Can you defend odd-man rushes? Do you get caught outside the dot-lane and over-commit to the puck carrier exposing the middle? Can you get pucks to the net with your shot or are blasting pucks into shin-pads?

Most coaches look for certain traits at certain positions. And there is also a balance between being a little selfish, showing coaches what you can do, vs. playing the game the way you should – making the right play based on the situation you are in. No coach likes a puck-hog. And coaches love players who share the puck and understand how they can gain the advantage for their team. That’s great you’re a speedy player, but do you just get the puck and go with blinders on, or—can you see & understand what is happening as the play is developing? Do you shoot when you can and pass when you should? Or do you shoot from every impossible angle or pass only when you’ve skated yourself out of options?

There are a thousand and one aspects to the game that coaches use to evaluate players. Above, are some some of what coaches may look for.

Until Next Time Everyone… Be Well and take Care,

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Grant Kimball is founder and contributing writer at Women’s College and beginning his 4th season as an Assistant Coach with the Yale University women’s hockey program. Grant has developed an experienced perspective in the world of women’s ice hockey, having coached and recruited players from across the globe during his 25+ year amateur and NCAA coaching career. He has coached at 6 NCAA DIII and DI programs in the NCHA (D3), the CHA, WCHA, Hockey East, ECAC, and the Ivy League (DI). Beyond coaching, Grant served as a site representative for the 2019 NCAA quarterfinal of the D-I NCAA Tournament. He also currently serves as an Officer with the American Hockey Coaches Association as Vice President of Membership and sits on the AHCA’s Women’s Hockey Executive Committee.

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