Player Development

Skill Development | Developing Skilled Defence

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.

Hockey Canada skilled defencemen

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.

Age-appropriate Defence Development Model

  • No position-specific specialization until U13 – all kids should play all positions through U11.
  • For young defence, the focus is on physical/motor skills and technical skills.
  • By mid‐teens and beyond, emphasis for defence needs to include perception skills of anticipation and reaction, and the cognitive aspects of team play and strategy.



Heavy emphasis on skating fundamentals.

  • Breakout basics: individual skills
  • Regroup: basic skills/support
  • Neutral-zone play
  • Defensive zone: 1‐on-1 play
  • Shooting: individual skills



  • Every practice should include some agility skating for defence.
  • Teach the skating first, introduce the puck and then, where possible, add players to interact with.
  • Use drills that simulate game situations as much as possible.


Hockey Canada Development Programs | Developing Skilled Defence (pdf)

More skill-development downloads


Has your MHA gone atoMc yet?
Check out the great jerseys your team could wear with the atoMc program.
2007-08 HCRC - Yukon
Hockey Canada visits the Yukon
HCRC - 2007 Moose Factory Rocket Richard trophy
HCRC - 2007 Moose Factory Rocket Richard trophy
2007 HCRC - Ottawa Senators
2007 HCRC - Ottawa Senators
Recent News
Most Popular