As each season passes by, the science of goaltending continues to improve and evolve. This evolution has made it harder for players to simply fire a puck and hit the back of the net.
Goaltender angles and movements are scientifically measured to reduce open areas of the net. The butterfly is commonplace and goalies of all age levels are able to track pucks with t-pushes and shuffles. As a result of this, it is critical for players to work on new techniques aimed at surprising and confusing goaltenders.
Quick-release, shooting-in-stride, shooting off of a pass and changing your shot angle (with a push or a pull) are 4 of the major scoring options that elite goal scorers around the world are resorting to. At the bottom of this post we share additional drills for the major scoring options just listed.
However, right now, we are going to dive into 4 shooting drills you can do with your team (or yourself) to practice pulling the puck to change your shooting angle.
To fully understand this skill, we put together 4 examples of Auston Matthews performing this skill to perfection. Watch below!
What did you see in the video above?
- He pulls the puck towards the body, sometimes changing the shooting angle over 1 foot!
- He lifts the elbow of his top hand so his stick can slide closer to his body.
- His lower hand pushes into the ice to generate force on his stick.
- On the last clip, Matthews also pulled the puck back to evade a poke check before he pulled the puck into his body to shoot (we will get to this later).
As you can see, when Matthews pulls the puck, it confuses the defense and goaltender. Even if the goaltender was able to save the puck, this type of shot is harder to track, which means there is a greater likelihood there will be a juicy rebound for your team to pounce on.
Below are 4 exercises and one small area game to help you learn the fundamentals of pulling the puck to change your shooting angle.
Please note, even though this is an extremely valuable skill, it is a hard skill to master. Start slow when working on each of the drills demonstrated below. Mistakes will happen as you practice the movement. That is ok and part of the progress! Once you are comfortable with a drill, increase the speed, work on picking your head up and increase the distance (or angle) of the pull.
Also, in these examples, we used cones and a broomball hockey stick. Do not get fixated on our props, you can use ANYTHING! Use tires, hockey sticks, broken sticks, pucks, your imagination, markers, and any other objects to practice changing your shot angle.
Drill 1: Stationary Pull & Release Shooting Progression
Drill # 1: (above) is a stationary progression that allows you to work on the fundamentals of pulling the puck into your body while you are shooting. You can practice this on or off the ice. You will notice that the stick on the ground is placed in three different directions. First placement is the easiest to pull around, while the third option is the most challenging. Focus on bringing your top hand elbow up as you pull the puck into your body while you shoot.
Drill 2: Slow Roll Pull & Release
Drill # 2: (above) is a "slow roll" that allows you to slowly skate up to the obstacle that you are shooting around. As you get comfortable, work on increasing your speed. You can reference drill # 1 to change the angle of the stick on the ground that you are shooting around to make the pulling exercise easier or more challenging.
Drill 3: The Puck Pull Shooting Challenge
Drill # 3: (above) can be a drill that is used independently to practice the skill, and it can be set up to be a really fun challenge for players.
For The Drill: Set the puck up so a player needs to skate up to the puck, pull the puck and fire a shot on net. You can place the puck further away for an added challenge. Or you can set up the angle of the stick on the ground in a particular way to make it easier or more challenging to pull the puck (see drill # 1 for angle options). For variations to this setup you can have the player shoot around a net (instead of the stick on the ice), or skate up to the obstacle with the puck.
Fun Challenge: You can set the puck up as shown and make this a "Survivor Game." Let each player get 2 warm-up shots and then start the "Challenge." To start the challenge place the puck in the middle of the stick and let each player try to pull the puck and get a shot on net. You eliminate players that can not pull the puck, clear the stick and get a shot off. If they are unable to pull the puck, or pull the puck into the obstacle, they are out! After each round, you put the puck further out of reach from the player so they have to pull it further around the stick (kind of like limbo)! Whoever is able to clear the stick and get a shot on net goes onto the next round. Keep placing the puck further and whoever can't make it is eliminated. The last player stating wins!
EXTRA CREDIT: Toe Drag Pull
Before we show you the drill, watch an example of Sebastian Aho pulling the puck back to evade a poke check before he pulls the shot into his body to change his shooting angle. This drill is labeled as extra credit because it is extremely challenging.
What did you see Aho do differently in this video than the other examples above?
- He pulls the puck back with a toe drag behind his heels to evade a defenders stick before he pulls the puck into his body to shoot.
Extra Credit Drill # 4: Slow Roll Toe Drag Pull
Drill # 4: (above) was called the "Aho" for Sebastian Aho. This Toe Drag Pull is an extremely hard skill to dial in, so start slow and have fun with it! You can work on using a toe drag to pull the puck back like Aho did in the video, or (if the toe drag is too hard) you can start with or a normal pullback (like Matthews did in the last clip of the video above). Whether you use a toe drag or a normal pullback, aim to bring the puck back by your heels before you pull it in for a shot. The main goal of this move is to evade a pokecheck and change your shooting angle.
Bouns: Pull Shot Small Area Hockey Game
To really drive home the teaching and application of this skill, set up a normal in zone 3 on 3, or a quarter ice 2 on 2 game. Award 2 points for a "Pull Shot Goal" and 1 point for a normal goal. This will encourage players to work to apply their "Pull Shot" in a game like situation.
Obviously changing your shot angle is not an easy skill to tackle. Like all good things, it takes time. Even though it is a harder skill to master, if the pull shot is executed, it will confuse the defense and goaltender which can increase your scoring chances or help you get a shot though to generate a rebound for your team.
Progressions to Keep in Mind with Each Drill
- It is a challenging skill. You WILL mess up. But that is the whole point of practice. Have fun working on something new!
- Start stationary to practice the fundamentals of the pull.
- Add slow skating into it.
- As you get comfortable, work on increasing skating speed, and increasing the distance (or angle) of the pull.
- Work on keeping your head up when you pull and shoot.
3 Body Mechanics to Keep in Mind
- Pull the puck towards your body
- Lift the elbow of your top hand so your stick can easily slide closer to your body
- Use the bottom hand of your stick to apply pressure into the ice so it generates power and whip on your stick
If you want to spice up ANY shooting exercise, just add a cone to any shooting drill and encourage players to pull the puck to shoot around it. View how easy it is below:
Shooting Skill Development Videos
- Quick Release & Reaction Shooting Progression
- Catch and Release Shot Demo
- Shooting In Stride Demo
- Shooting Off a Pass (with Angle Change)
- Stationary Pull & Release Shooting Progression