Hockey sense, hockey IQ, a “brain,” whatever you want to call it … to be able to read the game, is that elusive trait that we all try to study and teach our players.
It is the fundamental of all great hockey players.
In this post I am going to describe some of the basic details about hockey sense, and in the video below you will find one of the best in Artemi Panarin and why he is so smart on the ice.
Fundamental 1: Creating time and space
All great hockey players have the unique ability to do two things:
1. Create time and space for themselves
2. Create time and space for their teammates
Starting with creating time and space for themselves, big players are able to manipulate defenders with the puck. By using deception with their torso / eyes, manipulating a defender’s feet by changing speed or direction, and by using excellent puck protection skills, players can gain extra time and space with the puck.
By showing balance, they often bring other defenders to them which also creates an open teammate and time / space for them. Check out Panarin’s first track and how he does all these details to help set the Ranger’s first goal.
Fundamental 2: Big Puck Support
Great players also have the unique ability to get themselves in places to support the puck. Often when their teammates are in a corner through a defender, they find themselves in places for releases in support. Not only can they read the typical patterns of the game, but they can read small areas and find themselves in open spaces around the ice to continue playing.
In the video, Panarin does it masterfully in the last two tracks where he gets tracks first right after the entry and the Devils emphasize on Streams, and then on the 2v1 where he stops to find the track and then absolutely buries.
Fundamental 3: Use the middle of the ice cream
The best players are simply great at creating options. They put themselves on the ice in situations to create different options and not drive themselves off. One of the biggest ways they do this is to use the middle of the ice cream.
In the video you will see how Panarin on the second goal brings the puck to the middle of the ice on the rush. This allows him to create two options by going left or right, rather than skating in a straight line against the wall (which so many players do!) And limiting the options to just one side.
The ultimate compliment a coach can give a player is that they make their teammates better.
A hockey player does this with digs as they are masterful at creating options and creating time and space. Those things definitely make teammates better because they create opportunities for your team to retain possession of the puck. And when your team has the puck… well, that’s a big sign of success.
I hope you enjoyed this one!