Before this forced break we’re currently all in, I had been helping in more clinics than usual in years past since joining the Prospects Goaltending group. It’s always a good time working with goalies of all different ages and skill levels. In the course of a season I see at least hundreds of goalies, and I’ve been at this for over 17 years now, so I feel like I’m not out of line by saying I have the ability to look at a kid coming onto the ice and be able to have a general idea of their skill level fairly quickly.
You know how they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover? Well, I hate to tell you this, but you kinda can. I know coaches know what I mean. I hear it in tryout meetings all the time. “This kid just looks like a hockey player.” Sometimes they get it wrong for sure, but a lot of the time they’re right.
The same can be said for goalies. Once you’ve seen some really high end goalies, you can probably pick them out pretty quickly when matched up against less developed goalies.
So, if you feel like I’m talking to you, let’s work on your “book cover” together. Let’s dive a little deeper into what’s going to make someone say:
“This kid just looks like a goalie.”
1. “The kid can skate”
I’m not even talking about goalie specific skating (yet). I’m talking about, can you literally skate in your gear and look comfortable? Some kids look like their legs are in casts trying to skate their warmup laps, and that’s definitely a red flag. I blame a couple of things when this is the case: either gear that’s too big, or playing nothing but goalie from too young an age. I won’t get too deep into this in this post, but suffice to say: make sure your pads are sized to fit you now, not a year from now AND early sport specialization is the devil. (Don’t just take my word for it, actual experts say so too!)
2.”The kid ‘looks good’ in net”
If a goalie passes the eye test when they get on the ice, the next ‘filter’ is how they look once they take the crease. We talk all the time at our clinics about having a balanced, layered, goalie stance, and this is exemplified by our high level goalies.
Not perfect but this gives you an idea of what I mean. This is an athletic position. He’s got his hands out in front of him. His body weight is on the balls of his feet.
He looks ready.
He looks like a goalie.
There are a few big things that make a goalie NOT look like a good goalie in net, such as: having a flat stance with their hands by their sides, having their head tilted back or looking dead ahead, and having stick straight legs. In my opinion, those are the biggest offenders.
3.”The kid really moves like a goalie”
Ask any young goalie what their least favourite part of a goalie clinic or practice is and you’ll get the same answer every time.
I get it. I would have given the same answer at their age too. (Probably a big reason why I’m coaching now and not still playing.) However, kids that get how important skating is at an early age can grow by leaps and bounds ahead of the kids who just want to “get shots”.
Take a couple minutes to watch the clip above. Look at how many times he has to change position and how he follows the puck. Never casually gliding into a position. Constantly moving to follow the play but always in control.
When I see a goalie gliding spot to spot or at times unprepared when the puck is in the zone, or worse, unprepared at any point during their time in the net in a drill, it makes me question if they’re bringing the right level of intensity and focus to the drill.
At the end of the day, it’s still about making saves, but don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. A big part of excellence is being great at the details that separate great goalies from good goalies.