What Coaches Look For In Hockey Tryouts? [Expert Guide!]

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A number of factors go into deciding if an athlete is likely to make it as a hockey player. Aside from athletic ability, which is crucial, size, weight and strength are also considered. Skills such as shooting, passing and puck handling all factor in as well.

While there is no specific number that represents perfect proportions, teams usually go for a more conventional setup. According to one NHL scout, “around 90% of the kids that come out for tryouts fall into those categories”.

The Need For Speed

A top-notch hockey player must be able to move around quickly and fluidly. A scout for an Eastern European team said that for a defender, “speed is the most important trait to have” because, “he’s always going to be on the ice.” If an athlete can’t keep up with the game, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be able to succeed as a hockey player.

As a general rule of thumb, the faster you can skater, the better. The only downside is that it gets more difficult to improve your speed as you get older. That’s why younger players focus so much on working on their upper body strength.


Aside from needing to be able to move well, a top-notch hockey player must also have good size and weight proportions. Ideally, you want to find a skater who is medium height, but not too short or tall. The right amount of height will help him balance on the ice and move around properly while maintaining a fighting position when necessary. A scout for an organization once said that size is crucial for a forward, especially in today’s game, because so much emphasis is put on skill and speed. A big guy who can move quickly is often considered a double threat, making him that much more attractive to a coach.

Not only is size important, but it also affects how the coach feels about a player. One coach said that he values size much more than speed, “because when you are big, you can always find a place to put your body.” If you are smaller, you will be constantly moving around, which makes you more agile, but also harder to handle overall.


Another critical factor that influences whether or not an athlete will make it as a hockey player is his strength. You need at least enough strength to be able to fight for the puck and to throw body checks. A lot of size doesn’t hurt either.

The ideal hockey player is strong enough to carry his body weight, while also having enough upper body strength to move huge objects like rocks, trees or refrigerators. He can also push himself off the ice with the puck, using his strong legs to gain more speed.

Unfortunately, as with any other sport, many top-notch hockey players lack the strength to achieve their full potential. In most cases, this is due to a lack of proper training, but it could also be genetic. Certainty regarding the source of the problem is usually not possible, but if you see a talented hockey player, chances are he’ll need some extra help to become the best he can be.


Besides having the right size, weight and speed, a top-notch hockey player must possess good skills. This includes being able to shoot, pass, and handle the puck efficiently. Additionally, he must have the physical ability to fight for the puck and put up some body blocks. With so much emphasis on speed and agility, it’s no surprise that many elite players in NHL history lacked one of these qualities.

In the perfect world, all of these attributes would come together and form a complete package, but in reality, the odds of this happening are very low. This is especially true for newer players who are just getting started. Luckily, many excellent players have been able to break through the development system and make it to the NHL. These are the players who, for the most part, have the perfect proportions for hockey and are capable of making the leap to the NHL right away.

Developing good skills takes a lot of time, particularly if you are a younger player. Luckily, there are proven pathways to follow, and with enough hard work, dedication and focus, any hockey player can make it to the NHL and be the best player he can possibly be. With the right skills, the right attitude and the right work ethic, many could-be hockey players have already found their way to the NHL and are playing at an elite level.


Aside from the physical attributes listed above, a top-notch hockey player must also possess the right intangibles. In other words, he must be a perfect teammate, be committed to improving his game and have the mental fortitude to hang in there when things don’t go his way.

As a coach, I look for several intangible qualities in a hockey player. First, I want to see how he handles himself under pressure. Does he panic and lose his composure, or is he able to stay composed even when facing off against high-scoring opponents? Second, I want to see how he interacts with his teammates. Does he give them adequate lip service, or is he a genuine good teammate? Third, I want to see how he carries himself off the ice. Does he have the ‘it’ factor, or is he just another anonymous face in the crowd?

If you are a coach, or a parent who is coaching a child’s team, and you’re reading this, let me ask you a question: Do you feel your child is getting the attention they need from their coaches to help them improve their game? It’s extremely unlikely that your child will become the greatest hockey player in the world if they’re not getting the proper amount of attention from their coaches to help them achieve their potential. The same goes for any other sport.

With regard to my own coaching career, I’ve always felt that I was underpaid and underutilized. One of the responsibilities of a head coach is to invest in the betterment of their players and to bring out their best. This involves providing them with the training and attention they need to succeed. On some teams, coaches can also be found sitting in the stands during games. Sometimes this is due to a lack of funds, but it can also be a sign that the team’s owners, or head coaches, don’t value the job that the stands represent – getting out of the stands and into the training rink. Coaches should be out there, not just in the stands, encouraging their players to be the best they can be.

In summary, to paraphrase one legendary coach, “all of the above” applies when it comes to deciding if an athlete has what it takes to make it as a hockey player. Fortunately, with proper training and hard work, anyone can achieve their full potential. With the right attitude and the right work ethic, almost anyone can become an excellent hockey player. The only things that separate the humans from the machines are talent and hard work.

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