Observations From the Rink: Separation

What separates some players from others? Why do some of the most unexpected, or perhaps the most underrated players have success at the next level and beyond? Obviously, when players are put in the right situations and positions, they will always meet or surpass expectations. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it’s all about the “little things”. You see it’s the “little things” that ultimately set some players and young prospects apart.

Young players need to understand they can’t flip the switch, when they cheat, take short cuts and have bad habits creep into their game if they expect to move up the ranks.

Players that can play in any or every situation are much better suited for the rigors of the next level whatever that level is.

Usually, the players that take pride in the “little things” are always honest, relentless, reliable two-way players. They are the players that are out there when it matters most. Coaches trust those types of players in any situation.

Countless young players these days are fixated on trying to look good or showcase their skills rather than playing the game the right way, those players need to understand that they will get noticed more for doing the little things rather than all of the fancy stuff.

There’s a common misconception that you have to be all flash and dash to get noticed. Players who do all the little things right, skate, think the game well, and can play both sides of puck always jump off the page from a scouting perspective.

Sadly, in this day and age the “little things” players do often get missed, overlooked, ignored or even forgotten especially at the early levels of the game. One can only imagine the detrimental effects of minor hockey coaches that don’t praise and emphasize the “little things.”

Case in point, everyone talks about transitional offensive defenders, but so many skate into trouble and turn pucks over. If young defenders want to get noticed they should take care of their own zone, defend first, have a great stick, make good decisions, take good routes to pucks and move the puck efficiently and effectively. You see those are the little things that make a massive difference when players especially defencemen try to climb the ladder. Don’t get me wrong, young defenders should also have tons of runway to make mistakes, but they shouldn’t try to be something they’re not. That’s where the “little things” come into play. A “less is more” approach is critical until multiple layers develop within their game.

How would you rank the following characteristics of a player? Character, grit, pride in and knowledge of the position, compete level, skating ability and skill.

We all value different things when it comes to what we all think a player should be. A few years back I spoke with the U-15 AAA coach, they talked about players in practice taking pride in doing the little things right. Great coaches inspire players, but more importantly they take the time to teach kids how to play the game the right way. One could say that’s true development.

If players want to play at the next level, which doesn’t always mean the pro ranks they will have to be willing to become a “better” more complete player.

Clearly being a complete player will only make their transition to the next level up that much easier. People shouldn’t be surprised to see solid two-way players have success when the more “one dimensional” players struggle to find their footing at the next level.

Everyone seems to be looking at the stat sheet these days, to determine success and potential, but people need to start looking beyond the stats to see the true value in each and every player. Obviously, every team needs goal scorers and highly skilled players, but it’s when your skilled players do all the “little things” that’s when everyone knows you’re going places as a group. Usually on those types of teams, the “little things” are celebrated and highly appreciated from top to bottom.

Unappreciated, undervalued and on many a night unnoticed to average fan, these honest unrelenting players forge their own unique path in the game proving people wrong at every stage of their journey. They may prove people wrong, but they continue to prove to themselves that they belong, that everything that eventually comes their way is earned and never taken for granted. They know their role, they have embraced and perfected their identity. These players understand their value and what they bring to the game, to their team and organization.

We think we know the players and their stories, but when a player overcomes adversity and reaches their full potential at the next level it’s truly amazing to see, especially when they are finally given the opportunity they deserve and work so hard for.

What separates some players from others?

Why do some of most unexpected, underrated players have the most success at the next level?

It’s all about the “little things.”

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