By: Sudarshan Maharaj, Anaheim Ducks Goaltending Coach
I invariably encounter a multitude of coaches that are nervous and unsure about how to structure a goalie friendly try-out and, how to even go about evaluating their goalies in general. Obviously, there are a number of ways to achieve this however, without going into too many extraneous details, I thought that I would provide some basic tips to help make the process a little less daunting and hopefully provide some tools to make it as informative and fun as it is supposed to be for both the coaches and the goalies themselves.
Appoint/hire someone to just watch/evaluate the goalies
Coaches have enough on their agenda’s evaluating the cast of players in attendance and so by assigning this role to someone, it allows the coach(s) to concentrate on other things. However, this doesn’t mean that the coaches should just ignore the goalies outright, but it does allow them to distribute their focus and still have a complete assessment at the completion of the process.
Having someone with current knowledge of modern goaltending also helps educate the other coaches and assists in the production of a more structured evaluation of the goaltenders as a whole.
Run a separate goaltender evaluation skate
If the resources and time permit, a Goaltending Evaluation Skate can be a highly valuable evaluation tool. With the coaches free to sit and just isolate on each goaltender, the goalies can fairly demonstrate their skill sets throughout a series of targeted drills. This allows each goalie to get an equal amount of time in the net and enables the coaches to see how they handle a variety of situations and circumstances.
Unequal net time is often an unnoticed repercussion of a large number of goalies that must rotate throughout an ice session, and so a separate goaltender specific session ensures a more even distribution of ice time.
This may also allow coaches to touch base with players that may not yet possess the skills to compete at that specific level and therefore lessen the number of goalies that may progress to the main try-out camp.
Keep the numbers as low as possible
It is very difficult to adequately evaluate goaltenders when they have a lot of work, it is virtually impossible to do so if they are barely in the net! As alluded to earlier, a large number of goalies left to rotate throughout the ice session, may result in each individual only having a few minutes of net time to impress the coaching staff. In short, high numbers of goalies often results in less clarity and more frustration for both the goalies and the coaches.
Make sure all of the drills are goalie friendly
This by no means implies that coaches need to cater to the goalies for the entire practice, but rather, should serve as a reminder that the drills need to be structured in a manner that will allow the goalies to properly show their skills. For example, it is not uncommon to see drills that afford the goalies very little recovery time between shots and as a result they will often make a save only to look up to find a line of players directly in front of them already preparing to shoot. This only leads goalies to cut corners , skip shooters or even give up on pucks.
Make sure the drills test the goalies in different situations
A practice that results in goalies only having to make saves on shots off the wings or directly from the slot, will only tell you so much about the tools and technique of the goalies. A variety of situations will allow for a more complete picture of that prospect.
Consider modifying the drills you intend to use to make them slightly more goalie friendly. For example, simply placing a pylon to indicate where shots are supposed to be taken or to eliminate dekes.
Incorporate scrimmage time into your assessment
Some goaltenders are great practice goalies and others thrive during games. Scrimmages create as close to a game like environment as can be generated otherwise. Great technique goes a long way but in the end, you’re looking for goaltenders that make saves under the heat of competition.
These are by no means the only steps that can be taken to make the goaltending evaluation process less intimidating, but by incorporating some or all of these simple steps, it can help make things a little less formidable for all involved.
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