Observations From the Rink: “The Honest Player”

Everyone wants to win hockey games, everyone believes skill wins you games. 

Obviously it does, but you just have to ask all those skilled players who the most important players are on their respective teams and they won’t hesitate in telling you, the energy players. 

You can call them whatever the hell you want, but every time I go to the rink, I evaluate and project, it’s the “honest player” that jumps off the page.

Sean Kuraly is an amazing example of a “honest player”

Being an honest player, energy player and complete player all go hand in hand in my opinion. 

Evaluate, project skill and hockey sense, that’s my job, but there’s a lot more to the game than that.  It’s all about the intangibles. 

Can they think it, can they skate, but can they play both sides. 

You see when I watch hockey I’m watching for all those aspects of the game, but more often than not it’s the “honest player” that catches my eye.

Sure you see the skilled players, but does that translate to the next level?

I reflect on the importance of the “honest player” all the time. If you want to win hockey games and now a days everyone is fixated on that, instead of developing, you are going to need a lot of honest players.   

So what’s my definition of an honest player? 

The “honest player” usually flies under the radar, doesn’t make the flashy play, is consistent and can play in any situation and most importantly can play up and down the line up.  

The “honest player” doesn’t take any short cuts to pucks, is responsible in all three zones. Holds his teammates accountable both in practice and games. 

Can you say character! 

You are probably thinking that every player at the next level or the professional ranks should be that type of player, but for the most part that’s certainly not the case in today’s game.  

The unheralded and underrated player seemingly never gets the spotlight and is under appreciated by those analytic types solely focused on the stat sheet.   

From a scouting perspective those players jump off the page. 

Sure they may not have as high of a skill set as their counterparts, but they are equally important if not more important to team success in my opinion. 

Their skill set is in different areas of the game. 

Photo Credit Daniel St Louis Jacob Hudson is another great example of an “honest player”

Coaches these days should be promoting and acknowledging the skill set of the honest player at every turn. 

It doesn’t matter what the hell you call them, energy player, complete player, or honest player, you need them to win at any level.   

I believe the ultimate goal of any coaching staff at any level is to create an entire team of “honest players.” 

Now that’s accountability. 

With speed and skill emphasized as the new formula of winning in today’s game an element of flashiness draws the collective eyes of scouts and organizations, but deep down they all understand the value and importance of the honest player.  

Organizations sometimes overlook and cover up the glaring inadequacy of a young skilled player and try to hide that skill and talent within their line up or showcase it by trying to surround that player with honest line mates.

Believe me there’s no hiding in the game today, especially at the next level, when you are solely a one-dimensional player.   

You will get exposed really fast and will probably find yourself on the bench or in the stands. That’s just what happens, it’s part of the process, if you aren’t willing to adjust and embrace the full 200ft game at the next level. 

Clearly every player has a role, but within the framework of team systems and philosophy there should always be an element of accountability amongst every player.   The complexion of a team that takes pride in being honest is evident and directly correlated with their place in the standings and their ability to produce as many “200 ft” game style of players”. 

The complete “200 ft” game style of player is wanted commodity in this day and age, but it all boils down to being honest and accountable in all three zones. 

So you are probably wondering what a prototypical “honest player” does in the run of a game to draw the attention of those that appreciate their contributions?  

For the casual onlooker it’s hard to determine exactly what they do because they are so consistent in every facet of the game that it becomes almost a normal occurrence.  It’s only until an injury to these types of players that it becomes a massive and sometimes-insurmountable void within the line up that one gains an appreciation for their understated role.  

Moncton Wildcats and Calgary Flames Jakob Pelletier is another perfect example of a highly skilled player who plays the game the right way, the honest way.

To win when it matters most you need honesty amongst your group.  The coach/organization that promotes, praises and appreciates the “honest player” throughout the season will definitely benefit in the long run.  The “honest player” most certainly doesn’t need to flip the switch or need to modify their game come playoff time they are fully aware and understand what it takes to win. 

If you are still having difficulty grasping the concept discussed try considering the following characteristics of the players in question.  The player that takes pivotal face offs, kills penalties, passes the puck, uses their teammates at every turn, blocks shots, takes a hit to make a play, is always on the ice to start periods, on the ice after goals, responsible for changing the momentum of the game, is on the ice late in periods and at the end of games and is accountable in their zone.   Honesty as a player isn’t seen on the stat sheet, it may not always appear in scouting reports, but trust me it’s a very valued commodity. 

The value of the honest player can only truly be appreciated and measured in an environment that promotes it.  

Skill may win you a lot of games, but character and honesty will win you games when it matters most. 

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