The 200 Foot Player
Many young players dream of playing at that “next” level, and will do whatever necessary to get there. While your passion and determination are certainly there, are you sure you are focusing on improving the things that not only get you there, but keep you there?
When evaluating players whether it be during camp, games, or practices we seldom talk about a player’s goals and assists. Now, don’t take this as me saying goals and assists don’t matter. They undoubtedly do. But the reality is that for many players, the overwhelming majority of the conversation has very little to do with these factors. The older you get, the greater the competition becomes and harder the battle. The days of piling up points in 13-0 games, while very fun, will soon enough be gone and your game away from the puck will soon be exposed. Therefore, it’s important to start looking beyond the points. Consider the following…
Are you a thinker? Coaches and scouts want to discover not only how you think in the game, but also how fast can you think in the game. Do you struggle to make the right (which is often the simple) pass when the pressure is on? Be sure to take the time to learn how your teammates depend on you to execute the game plan before you focus on threading the needle for an easy apple.
Are you hard to play against? If you’re someone who the other team wants on the ice, evaluate your own battle and compete level before you think about scoring more goals. Next time you’re watching the NHL, take your eyes off the star players for a few minutes and pay attention to what the guys without the puck are doing to earn their spot in the highest league.
The term 200 ft player has been mentioned a lot in these past few years, and their value to a team is showing superior to the one dimensional player. The NHLer that stands out in my mind who exemplifies this is Jonathan Toews. On any given night, a 200ft player has a deep inventory of skills they can bring to the table to help their team win. This player can limit the opportunities and shut down the opponents top players by taking away their time and space, taking a hit to make a play off the half wall, winning a timely face-off in the defensive zone, calm things down on the PP, consistently in great puck support position to make the game easier for teammates, be the first one in on the forecheck, utilizing great stick positioning to deflect passes, blocking a shot and of course, finding a way to score when the game is on the line.
Most players will go through a period when points run dry, therefore it’s important to broaden the skills you bring to the table. I want to encourage you to take the time to ask yourself the tough questions, looking deeper into your game beyond the points, and study the game of hockey. Pay attention to all of the players on an NHL team; notice what details of the game those players are bringing that help the team find success. Successful teams, in turn, will bring success to individuals. Find a way to be one of them.