Five Tips For a Successful Junior Training Camp
This guest article is by Nick Olynyk, author of the Junior Hockey Truth
Now that it’s August, tryout season is here. There’s a good chance if you’re reading this you’re looking for an inside edge on making a team. Most of the advice I give in this article comes from my direct experience trying out for teams at all levels of junior hockey. Although I specialize in helping bantam and midget players reach junior hockey, these tryout tips will also help any goalie who is moving up a level this season and are something to keep in mind for the future…
1) Prepare For Faster, More Accurate Shots
If you’re a young goalie who has only been playing against midget players, you’re going to notice a big difference in the quality of shots you face.
Junior players will not only be up to five years older than you, they will also be much stronger and accurate than the players you’re used to playing against. Get a couple extra sessions with your goalie coach before you hit your junior camp. It will do wonders for your puck tracking.
Also realize that plays will move faster in junior, so you need to increase your awareness of the whole ice surface. Luckily, as my old goalie coach Olaf Kolzig used to say, it’s easier to adjust your timing when you go up a level than it is when you go down a level.
2) Communicate With Your D-Men
Training camp D-pairings can be a mess. On your training camp squad you can have the veteran, top D-man playing with another guy who is tripping over his laces. It’s pretty easy to pick out the guys who will get beat on the outside or make a lazy pass up the middle.
Be aware of who is on the ice for your team. Cover up the puck when you’d rather get weak guys off the ice, and talk to your D-men often. Always be yelling what’s going on in front of the net when your D go behind the goal line. If you’re in doubt, let them know what’s going on and what you’re going to do with the puck. Be their second set of eyes.
3) Calm And Steady Beats Floppy And Flashy
Many goalies think they’ll get the attention of a coach by making huge saves, playing the puck often or drawing attention to themselves. While there is a time and place for everything, coaches want a solid rock in net.
When I played with Carey Price, what made him so great was that he made tough situations look easy. Where I would be tangled in a knot on certain plays, he would be calm, stay square to the puck and make a simple save. It inspired a lot of confidence in teammates and even more in the coach.
A coach wants a goalie who is reliable and gives the team a chance to win every night. He wants his goaltending to be an afterthought. Goalies who dive around, take too many risks outside the crease or act too cocky after saves often become liabilities later in the season. Be the rock solid guy who gets noticed for keeping things simple.
4) Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter How Well You Play
Regardless of how your training camp turns out, know that most junior leagues have their goalies recruited before camp starts. The open spot will be there for them to lose.
If the team has made a commitment to a goalie in the spring and he has a poor camp, he still may get the backup spot on the bench opening night. Smart midget goalies should build a relationship with a junior team before they are of junior age. This is how guys get offered a spot before they play their first game.
I was the best goalie in the Portland Winterhawks rookie camp when I was 15. I also got sent home at the end of camp and another goalie was placed on the protected list. Six months later, Portland dropped that goalie and picked me up. They had followed me throughout the season and kept their eye on me. Sometimes making a team takes more than a training camp.
If you’re a late cut from a team, keep your chin up. You’re likely ahead of most guys your age and you’re also on the radar now. Another opportunity could be just around the corner.
5) Don’t Underestimate What You Can Achieve
Every year in every league, at least one goalie turns heads as a walk-on. A walk-on is a player who comes into camp as a total unknown and plays his butt off onto the roster.
You should enter camp without expectations and take each session one at a time. However, know that a team will never give up a player of value. Even if the team does not have a spot for you on the roster, they may end up putting you on their protected list for the future or as trade bait to another team.
I finally made junior hockey at 17 as a walk-on with the Regina Pats. I didn’t know a single person on the staff when I came to camp, and my only goal was to have a jersey hanging in my stall everyday I came to practice. After 40 days of slugging it out, I was penciled into the opening night roster over the previous year’s backup goalie. I thought my stay would only last a weekend, but sometimes what you think you’re capable of and what happens are two different things. Think one day at a time and believe in yourself big-time…
Nick Olynyk is author of the Junior Hockey Truth, a website that helps bantam and midget players reach their dream of playing junior hockey. You can subscribe to his free video series and check out his website for more articles and interviews.