The Development of Defensemen

Jason Strudwick
February 20 2012 09:54AM

 

 

Becoming an NHL player is a process. In general, a prospect must work very hard, stay healthy and have some luck on his side to get a chance at a full time NHL roster spot.

More specifically, each position has its own challenges and lessons that a young player must overcome and learn. A skill a forward must be able to handle is getting the puck out of his zone when a dman is pinching down on them. Setting up a dumped in puck cleanly for his d-man is a must have ability for goalies.

On average, goalies and defensemen take the longest to become NHL regulars. I am not a goalie coach, so I will leave questions regarding their development to those who are.

This week I want to outline a couple of specific abilities a dman must have in the defensive zone.

1. A good stick

This is a term used all the time by coaches. In short, it refers to placing your stick in passing lanes as to eliminate passing options and using it to poke the puck away from the carrier as you check him. Many players keep their stick off the ice. This makes it easier to pass around them. It gives them no chance to take the puck away by jamming their stick at the puck.

2. Body Position

Staying between the attacking player and the net is the key. Maintaining body position will prevent him from getting to a rebound first. After a battle in the corner a d-man should beat his player off the boards. Coming off them second creates a two versus one for his partner.

3. Zone Awareness

Good scorers are able to find soft spots and only require a second to receive and shoot a puck. They can lose the defender checking them by going very high in the zone and then floating into the slot. They also love to go from the strong side to the week side using the back of the net. It gets confusing for the d-zone players as to who must now play him.

Knowing and understanding what is going on around them is a skill that takes the most time of the three listed above to learn but is probably the most important. You cannot play in the d-zone without having awareness.

Some of these skills can be taught with practice and repetition. Keeping your stick on the ice and in the right place isn't too hard to learn. Awareness needs to be taken a step further. One-on-one sessions with a coach reviewing in game situations are very common.

Becoming solid in the defensive zone is very important for young Defensemen. For most it takes time to learn and master. The AHL is a great place to develop; pro hockey is a lot different then college or junior hockey. Solid d-zone play can lead to a long and successful career even if a guy doesn't put up much offense.

Without the ability of being reliable in his zone, however, most d-man will not last long in the NHL.

Unique Nick Name??

....I have had a few different nick names. The String bean, Strud and Struddy are just a few. I just found out about another I have been given here in Sweden. Apparently "Struds" in Swedish means Ostrich! So call me the big bird, The Ostrich!

Not sure why no one told me sooner. Maybe they thought I wouldn't like it but I do! Unique handle! It has also had the positive side effect of increasing my Swedish vocabulary up from four to five words.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 oilredemption
February 20 2012, 10:11AM
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Ah the bird that can't fly x)

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#2 psycloud
February 20 2012, 10:19AM
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Your new nickname is "Chris Bosh." http://goo.gl/Ie8kp

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#3 Rama Lama
February 20 2012, 10:29AM
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Hey Struds, before you accept this nick name, please be aware that the Ostrich is one of the dumbest birds on the planet!

The parrot family is the smartest and they are pretty too.......if its not too late make a change for the love of god!

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#4 mumbai max
February 20 2012, 10:40AM
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Ostrich in Swedish is struts. Close enough.

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#5 nunyour
February 20 2012, 10:41AM
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do they have ostriches in sweden? or is that a dumb question.

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#6 mumbai max
February 20 2012, 10:43AM
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yes, there are ostriches in sweden. i own a farm in sweden, that is next to a struts farm. pronounced stroots.

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#7 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
February 20 2012, 12:37PM
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An Ostrich can kick the stuffing out of a lion so there is a cool factor there! Lets just stay with that. PS and Even Fred Flintstone could love those drumsticks!

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#8 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
February 20 2012, 01:51PM
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"The Ostrich", love it. Very suitable nick name for such a big, lanky guy.

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#9 Quicksilver ballet
February 20 2012, 05:43PM
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Anybody else hear that...

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#10 Quicksilver ballet
February 20 2012, 05:44PM
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Can't tell if you are being mean here so I edited you to keep my need for control satiated. Sorry if I took this wrong - WG

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#11 Wanye
February 20 2012, 09:27PM
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mumbai max wrote:

yes, there are ostriches in sweden. i own a farm in sweden, that is next to a struts farm. pronounced stroots.

YOU OWN A FARM IN SWEDEN?

Who reads this site?!

*whisles so loudly all the Struds in SE Asia come running*

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#12 vetinari
February 21 2012, 09:44AM
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@ Struds - Detroit would throw octopi on the ice; Florida would throw rats/mice on the ice; what do they throw on the ice for you when you score??? I have visions of three burley guys trying to throw a "big bird" sized creature over the glass and onto the ice...

As for the development of defencemen, thanks for the insight. It seems like defensive zone awareness is the minimum starting point to make or break young defencemen on a NHL roster-- if they can't be trusted in their own zone, they are not going to last long. It must be intimidating to have a Gretzky, Sakic, Selanne or Ovechkin bearing down on you full speed, 1 on 1, when you know that any mistake will probably result in you fishing the puck out of the net.

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#13 AnimalPlanet
February 21 2012, 11:19AM
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So if Strudwick is nicknamed "the Ostrich", how come the photo is of an emu? Where's the fact checker on that!?

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