Every hockey player is born with certain skills, abilities and attributes that make them more likely to succeed at a certain position, but there’s no reason to limit yourself to one position before you’ve given them all a try. If you’ve never played hockey on a team before, don’t worry too much about choosing one position and getting locked into playing it exclusively right away. In fact, you should do just the opposite. Try playing each position to see what you enjoy about each one and eventually you’ll find the position that you’re most comfortable playing.
There are some key things to consider when choosing the position that suits you best. These are just general recommendations and of course there are always exceptions.
- If you’re a bigger player then you might do well playing center or defense. Centers spend a lot of their time in the corners and in front of the net, battling with opposing players for loose pucks and position in front of the goaltender at both ends of the ice. Defensemen and centers have very similar roles in the defensive zone and tend to be more physical players than wingers.
- If you’re a smaller player then you might be more comfortable as a forward, more specifically a winger. Wingers tend to be smaller, faster skaters who rely on their speed and elusiveness rather than size and strength. As a winger, you’ll spend a lot of time behind, in front of and around the opposing team’s net, but you won’t usually spend as much time below the faceoff dots in your defensive zone.
Skating Agility & Speed
- If speed and agility are not your strong suits, then playing on the wing is probably not the position where you’ll be most effective. Being a slow skater does not necessarily “qualify” you for any position, but usually you’ll be able to keep yourself in good position on the ice with a bit more success as a center or defenseman – because of the nature of playing as a center-man or defenseman you’ll be able to read the opposing team’s attack from a safer defensive position where you can react more readily.
- If you’re fairly quick and agile then you would probably do well as a forward. Creating offense has a lot to do with speed so as a forward you can put yourself in good position to join the rush into the offensive zone. The fastest skaters usually play on the wings because they are able to attack with speed to spread out the defense and open up scoring opportunities as they enter the opposing team’s zone.
Figuring out what type of "hockey sense" you have is something that takes time, but eventually you’ll start recognizing which side of the puck your brain is on.
- If you have a keen sense of what the opposing team’s players are going to do with the puck, and if you enjoy trying to shut them down, you would probably make a great defenseman; or possibly center-man. Defensemen must have the ability to read the play quickly and then adjust to make sure they are in position, ready to protect their half of the ice. Centers are often called 3rd defensemen because in the defensive zone the center has the same responsibilities as a defenseman around and behind the net.
- If you have a good eye for finding lanes and exploiting the weaknesses of opposing defenders, then you will probably fare well as a forward. Whether you’re on the wing or playing center, as a forward you must be able to create scoring opportunities by outworking and outsmarting the defenders on the opposing team.
The truth is a great a player can play any position at any time; but, in order to be as effective as possible, you should take some time to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a player and then choose the position that will allow you to utilize your best skills.