Category Archives: Featured COVID Update-3

Post #3 — 10/22/20 — Player evaluation / identification – understanding the process part-I, COVID update


  • Player Identification/Evaluation – Understanding The Process
  • NCAA/Team COVID Update

Player Identification/Evaluation – Understanding The Process…

In this first installment of our 4-part ‘Understanding The Process’ series we tackle player evaluation and identification. In our last post we said these two pieces were the most important in the recruitment process. The reason… It’s tough to have success when you don’t recruit the right players. Identify the wrong players or do a poor job in evaluating and the next few years can be very difficult to recover from. Understanding the approach coaches at the DI or DIII level take will help you understand their mentality.

Let’s start with a point of clarification about the term ‘recruiting’. I’m sure you hear the term recruiting a lot… Coaches go recruiting’, ‘you guys done recruiting? ‘How’s recruiting going?’. Most people associate recruiting with evaluating and just watching players, which is partly true. But there is a difference. Recruiting is not just solely evaluating players. Recruiting is more about ALL of the things that happen after most coaches have identified a player they want and know they’ll have a strong interest in. Quite honestly, it’s the more ‘salesy’ side of the process. Ultimately recruiting is everything that helps a coach get someone to their school. So, think about a multi-step process with a ton of communication between the coaching staff, the player, her family, and anyone else important helping in her decision – like you as coaches.

OK—On to player evaluation.

Coaches are often asked by parents and youth coaches, ‘What do you guys look for in a player?’ The short answer is a lot of things. There is no one right definition of skills that each coach looks for. Each coach is different. Most coaches approach this answer with answering a few questions: 1) How many players at each position do we need to recruit in a given year and 2) What type of players do we want at those positions. Coaches do have a minimum fundamental skill set they are looking for that will translate well to their style of play. Here are a few fundamental skills coaches evaluate. Keep in mind, there aren’t a lot of differences if any when you’re looking between DI and D-III programs.

Skating ability… Very high on a lot of coaches lists of skills to eval. Having above average speed, quickness, and agility is certainly going to help. Good skaters can play an aggressive, attacking style. With the puck, a great skating forward need to evade defenders and move up ice with pace and attack the net/slot area to create offense. Forwards need to jump on loose pucks and close off time and space forechecking. Defensemen need to skate backwards almost as fast or faster than they can forwards while being able to have lateral mobility and smooth transitions backward to forward and vice versa. Defensive need to close gaps and get in lanes while defending. With the puck, defensemen need to begin the breakout moving their feet to start the attack up the ice. At the offensive end of the rink, defensemen need to be confident skaters on the blueline making themselves an offensive option, open up a shooting lane, jumping into an open space, etc.

Passing/Puck management/control/protection… Especially as a wing, coaches want players to be able to skate at top speed with the puck and make a play. Can you keep possession while being defended against and find an open player to keep the play alive? Do you give the puck away and panic? Can you catch a bad pass? Does the play always end with you or can you keep the play going? Defensemen have to be able to break the puck out and make a good first pass. Defensemen can’t get beat to pucks in their own end and present the puck to a forechecker and have it stripped. Offensively, Defensemen need to catch passes and be ready to distribute the puck while moving, like D to D along the blueline.

Shooting… Both forwards and defensemen need accuracy. Do you have proper shot mechanics? A quick release? Can you score? As a Defensemen, can your shot get to the net with some velocity or are you always hitting shin pads?  

Play away from the puck… Can you defend in all 3 zones? Are you disciplined or running around? Do you take good angles when attacking the puck carrier?

COMPETE level… If you don’t consistently compete and work hard in all situations, it will be hard to get consistent ice time. What does it mean to compete? It means how hard are you working to accomplish the task at hand. How hard do you work to get the puck back? How hard do you work to keep the puck and keep the play going? Do you work hard every shift or do you take shifts or entire games off? Do you get beat easily and give up on a play or on a 1 on 1? How tough are you to play against?

Last one… can you play within a structure? This is a skill but it takes a bit more to uncover than just watching a few games. The college game at either the D-I or D-III level is a structured game with many systems coaches use in many different situations. It’s really important coaches answer this question before making someone a part of the program. Can you learn systems and be disciplined enough to execute it? If you just play by what ‘feels’ right and drift to wherever on the ice because you ‘felt’ you should be there or if you are positionally undisciplined, it will be tough to play in a structured program. Coaches have systems for all three zones with and without the puck, and they need players who are willing to be disciplined and buy into the learning process of ‘the why behind the what’ and be able to execute it.

As coaches watch players, they try and answer these questions and in doing so, coaches will even put players into categories or groups. Groups like, the offensive skilled forward who creates offense or is a pure goal scorer as well as responsible defensively enough to play in your top-9 somewhere. Then there are the ‘grinders’ who are more like a 3rd, 4th, or 5th line type player who are more defensive in nature or great forecheckers, can kill penalties but not a real threat to score. Defensemen might be those who coaches see in their top two pairs who can play a regular shift, match up vs. their opponent’s top line, manage a power play, kill penalties – the type who can do it all. There are also those who are purely defensive minded, can move the puck well, make good decisions, can kill penalties, but ay lack some offensive ability.

Bottom line, coaches look a the game in different ways and value certain skills more than others. Above are just some examples to know what coaches look for and how they think when evaluating.

Now through our evaluations, we’ll identify the players who make our list.

Player Identification

Girls/women’s hockey is kind of like NASCAR. You know certain events take place every year at the same time and place with generally the same teams. Unless its 2020 and there’s a world-wide pandemic. Then things change. More on that in a future post.

Most coaches identify players they think can fit certain team needs. They develop a really good comfort level through multiple evaluations over time. Some coaches wind up working a bit of a backwards process. Most D-I coaches are very specific in what they are looking for in terms of skills and how many players they are recruiting. This may be less true on the D-III side of things. A lot of D-III schools are enrollment driven – meaning they need to recruit a number of students each year to make the finances work out. Athletic Directors will tell coaches they have to recruit a certain number of players per year. This isn’t always the case at D-III, but certainly more common.

A lot of coaches will assess their program from a 30,000-foot view, a state-of-the-program-look if you will. They’ll ask questions like, based on our competitive goals, did we take a step(s) forward or backward this season? Second, they’ll define what their positional numbers and intangible needs are. How many G, D, and F’s do we want to bring in and what types of intangibles factors do we want—2 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie with leadership potential, who have high character and are absolute hockey junkies. Answering these types of questions tells coaches who they need to IDENTIFY.

Coaching staffs have certain goals for specific recruiting events/games they attend. Some are super organized with binders, folders, color coded groups – it can get pretty intricate. Coaches will usually have a plan for what they want to get out of an event. Some tournaments and showcases are great because they’ll get to see a handful of players they’re really interested in play against excellent competition. Others, they’ll see a large number of players in a particular age group for the very first time. No matter what the goal, coaches always have an eye out for who plays well and impacts the game.

So, how does someone get identified?

The easiest way to get identified and on a coaches list—find a way to positively impact the game. That doesn’t mean be a puck-hog and do everything on your own. That will get you identified alright… as a player coaches may not have any interest in. Honestly, just keep it simple. Make a play when you should make one. Pass and shoot when you should, defend well without the puck. Play the game the way it should be played. It sounds easy but, playing well at your position and showcasing the fundamental skill areas mentioned above in the player evaluation section goes a long way. Do that consistently over time, and you just went from being ‘identified’ to a player coaches are going to have a lot of interest in.

NCAA/Team COVID Update…

-The NCAA’s Division I Council announced last week student-athletes who compete in a 20-21 Winter sport will receive both an extra year of competition and an additional year in which to complete it. You can read the announcement HERE. Essentially winter sport athletes are getting a free year in 20-21 to compete and not have it count against their NCAA eligibility. How that will exactly impact Winter sport athletes in various conferences and divisions is unknown at this time.

-Division I and III coaches had their monthly Town Hall Zoom meeting earlier last week. There was a lot of talk about the recruiting dead period and looming January 1 expiry date. Sounds like the NCAA is eager to hear from coaches’ associations about what they want recruiting to look like after Jan. 1. Go back to normal or create a modified model. Each women’s DI hockey conference was asked to make recommendations which will be forwarded to the NCAA. Interestingly, DII and DIII schools have been allowed to recruit this whole time since the pandemic began.

Last week the Division III New England Small School Athletic Conference announced it was cancelling the winter sport season. You can read the announcement HERE. With the rise in positive cases and hospitalizations rising over the past few weeks, it will be interesting to see how DI schools and conferences handle start dates. As as a staff we have been watching a lot of video lately. There are some hockey events coming up with the MN NIT this past weekend and US/Canada Cup in Detroit the next weekend. The rumor out of Minnesota is the high school season will begin Nov. 30th.

Until next time everyone, enjoy your weekend…