This past week, I was asked by James Rayburn, Director of Hockey Operations & Programs for West Kelowna Minor Hockey, to take part in their Peewee Rep evaluations and learn how to evalutate players in tryouts.
Over the course of three ice sessions, we evaluated 11 and 12-year-old players on the following skills: skating, shooting, puck control, compete level, & hockey sense. We used a grading scale from 1-10 with a multiplier put on the more desirable traits (3x compete level and 2x skating & hockey sense) and, based on my observations, here are some ProTips that I used for each skill.
Evaluating skating goes well beyond just the speed of the player. Obviously, that is a critical factor for rep hockey players, but we also need to consider their agility, balance, and coordination (ABCs).
- How powerful are the player’s first three steps?
- What is their top speed and how quickly can they get there?
- Does the player move well laterally (shifty)?
- How are their transitions and backward skating?
- Are they balanced on their edges (crossovers, tight turns, etc.)?
- Are they coordinated when battling for a loose puck?
Just because a player has a hard shot does not mean it should rank high on your scaling chart. More functional skills like accuracy, placement, and quick release need to be considered along with a few other factors.
- How quickly is the player able to get their shot off?
- What shots do they have in their arsenal (wrister, snapper, backhand, clapper, & one-t)?
- Do they hit the net or constantly miss wide?
- Are they shooting with their head up and picking corners?
- Are they able to change their shooting angle with subtle drags?
A skill that becomes necessary for any skater playing rep hockey is their ability to maintain possession of the puck. Turnovers can be very costly at this level so consider these factors when evaluating a player’s puck control.
- Does the player create space with fakes and deception?
- Is the player able to maintain possession when under pressure (stick strength)?
- Can the player receive passes on the forehand, backhand, and in the skates?
- Are they able to field or knock down bouncing pucks (hand-eye)?
The drive to compete and battle for a roster spot is one of those intangible elements that not every player has. As you grade this skill, remember that you can’t just award points for working hard (eg. running around the ice with no positional play), there needs to be method to the player’s madness. This is what I looked for:
- Does the player win every race to a loose puck?
- When the player loses the puck, how hard do they work to get it back?
- When they gain possession of the puck, do they move their feet?
- Is the player committed to back-checking?
- Is the player committed to forechecking?
- Does the player dictate the pace of play or sit back and coast?
At a young age, this is a difficult skill to teach. Many players either have it or they don’t. Hockey sense, or hockey IQ, refers to a player’s ability to read or anticipate specific scenarios and make educated decisions to create the best possible outcome. Players with a high hockey IQ are always aware of the players on both teams around them, the zone of the ice they are in, the amount of time left in the period or game, and the score of the game.
- Are they taking unnecessary risks in dangerous areas (blue lines, front of own net, etc.)?
- Can they skate with their head up and make plays?
- How often does the player turn the puck over?
- Do they cover for a teammate when they are out of position?
- Are they finding gaps in the coverage and exploiting it?
- Do they communicate with their teammates?
We can go on for days with examples but these are just a few that I encountered this week. Best of luck with your evaluations and I hope you find these evaluation ProTips useful.
BY: Tyler Hinds