The Modern Goaltender

Goaltending has and will continue to change and evolve on an almost daily basis. Goalies and coaches are constantly coming up with new and better techniques to stop the puck more efficiently. Goalies of different sizes and strengths may play the same situation differently, resulting in a variety of goaltending “styles”. With that being said several goalies have asked me what scouts and coaches look for in a goaltender. Do they prefer a particular style? In this article I’d like to describe what I believe most coaches and scouts look for in a goalie in today’s game.

Having the privilege of coaching at the professional level and scouting with USA hockey the past 9 years I feel that I have a good grasp of the qualities that coaches and goalie coaches look for in a goaltender. Granted some coaches may still use the “eye test” where they simply like or dislike a goalie from a quick glance based on size; fundamentals; quickness; etc. For the most part coaches seem to like the same qualities. Obviously they all want a goalie that can “stop the puck” and is a “winner”.

Mental Toughness. I listed this first because so much time is spent practicing physical skills but the mental side is still the most important part. Reading the play, anticipation, and “hockey sense” are necessary traits to be a good goaltender. Goaltenders are expected to have those skills. Having the ability to get over a goal against or bad game are paramount in order to be an “elite” goaltender. Having self- confidence is also part of being mentally tough.

Athleticism. The days of “drop and block” on every shot are long gone. The butterfly is still a regularly used save selection but can no longer be considered a style. Coaches want goalies that are athletic and can make 2nd and 3rd saves. They want goalies to stop all the pucks they should as well some of the ones that they “shouldn’t”. Flexibility, quickness, and reacting skills are all part of being an athletic goaltender.

Fundamentals. Being fundamentally sound helps consistency of play. Stance, butterfly coverage; hand and stick positioning; sealing the post; rotating to the post etc. Basically all traits that help a goaltender maximize their size and net coverage. It is important to strive to be fundamentally sound without being “robotic”. At times things don’t go as planned and saves may have to be made in an unorthodox manner.

Movement. Strong footwork helps a goaltender to stay square to the puck and set for the shot more often. Being square and set for the shot make 1st saves easier and provide for better rebound control. Strong skating skills out of the crease help the goaltender to be a more proficient puck handler.

Puck Tracking. This includes reacting to the puck, reflexes, and tracking the puck off of the stick blade early. Most goals go in over the goalies pads and high, therefore coaches want goalies with good hands as well as good feet. Puck tracking also includes the ability to make “desperation” saves where a goaltender has to find a way to the stop the puck if they get caught out of position.

Rebound Control. Every goalie in the world gives up rebounds but coaches want goalies that limit the bad rebounds. Rebounds are unpredictable and difficult for the team to defend against. Using the proper stick and pad angle as well as trapping pucks on the body and glove cut down on unnecessary rebounds.

Competitiveness. I consider competitiveness for a goaltender as simply “hating” to get scored on. Game or practice. Competitive goalies hate to lose and play well in high-pressure situations and big games. Competing hard also gets the team to play harder in front of the goaltender.

Size. There’s no surprise that a coach would prefer a bigger goalie to a smaller one if they were of equal skill level. This doesn’t mean that a smaller goalie doesn’t have a chance though. Smaller goalies have to be better positioned and have excellent movement, athleticism, and puck tracking skills to make up for their lack of size. They should also strive to have something that separates themself from other goalies such as being good at handling the puck or having exceptional rebound control.

Keeping these areas in mind while at practice will lead to better game habits. Goalies should pick a couple of areas of their game to really focus on each practice. This will lead to more quality practice to achieve faster long term development.
For more information on the Janosz School of Goaltending Camps, Clinics, and Private Training go to or call (716) 308-9224.