There are a number of skills required for a defender to reach their potential, including skating, breakouts, regroups, 1-on-1 defending, neutral-zone defending, shooting, offensive play and defensive-zone coverage, as well as more detailed technical skills as they advance.
A defender must be a strong, agile skater. To work on the skating basics defenders utilize in every game and practice, design drills to teach and reinforce the basics with repetitions. Mimic the agility skills defenders use and make these as game‐like as possible, progressing from skating, skating with a puck, and skating when passing and receiving. Tactical play can then be incorporated, such as gap control, angling, and reading and reacting.
Breakouts are a key skill for defenders, and the essence of attacking. Puck recovery is key and making a good first choice/pass is imperative. Defenders must support each other and communicate (as do the goalies and forwards). Often the simplest play is the best. Practice puck retrieval and breakout options every practice so it becomes second nature. Stress the importance of passing and receiving every practice.
Heavy emphasis on skating fundamentals.
Hockey Canada Development Programs | Developing Skilled Defence (pdf)
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