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The 10 Hockey Player Archetypes (Forwards & Defense)

Do you want to know the biggest mistake I made as a hockey player after my 20-year career?

It's the same mistake I have watched so many players make too.

The biggest mistake that I made was: assuming that HARD WORK is the answer to all hockey problems.

I assumed that if I worked hard enough and put enough hours in, then I would be successful and make it to the NHL.

I assumed if I failed it was because I didn't work hard enough.

I know what you think:

"WHAT THE F IS THIS GUYS TALKING ABOUT??? Of course, hard work is the answer.

That's fine. You do not have to learn from my mistakes.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy.

But I am telling you the truth I needed to hear. I hope that you can learn this lesson and avoid the hard work trap altogether.

See, I thought I was so smart for taking everyone's advice to "just work harder than everyone else".

Everyone would always shout the same stuff at me:

“Just train harder and you will make it”

“Put your head down and it will all work out”

“If you fail, you just didn’t want it bad enough”

That’s all it takes, right?


Maybe you are taking the same advice right now.

That’s BRUTAL advice for 99.99% of players.


Well because there is something called survivorship bias.

This is a cognitive bias that was coined by Abraham Wald. Abraham Wald was a famous statistician known for studying World War II planes.

He and his team would study damaged planes that came back from war.

Their goal was to find out where the planes were being hit with bullets.

They then planned to reinforce the planes where they were taking the most damage.

This seemed logical, right?

But the problem was that they were only looking at the planes that made it back (the survivors).

They were ignoring the planes that were shot down in battle.

The data they were collecting was only focused on the survivors.

That's why it's called survivorship bias.

They were ignoring the most important planes in the data set.

This would have been a massive mistake because the goal was to figure out how to not have planes shot down.

Yet, they ignore the planes that were shot down.

Applying this to Hockey?

So luckily in hockey, we can't get shot down like a war plane.

We as players want to not get cut or dropped from teams, yet we rarely look to see why this happened.

We want to watch the highlights and the top players but ignore the failures.

It's possible we are making the same mistakes that many players made before, yet we turn a blind eye to it.

See what I mean now?

If we want to avoid this and instead move up levels we want to look at both the planes that made it, and the ones that didn't.

We must study the great plays and the not-so-great plays.

For example, this means watching full hockey games on YouTube, not just the highlights.

This also means that we don't only study the players who are doing the best. We must consider what players did to fail too.

You can ignore this way of thinking if you'd like, and hope you are one of those lucky planes that make it back with "hard work".

But that is like playing Casino Roulette with your career.

Playing Roulette With Your Career

"Take a spin at working hard and see where you land".

I do not like the casino for this very reason.

You are relying on pure luck.

I instead want to feel like I have some influence on the game.

If I am going to do something I want to figure out how to be good.

This is what great players understand, and weaker players ignore.

I want you to be great. That's the point of these conversations we are having.

So if you want to be great, you must stop relying on luck to get you through.

The Window Of Opportunity

I have taught you this before.

We do not have time to spin the roulette wheel 1,000,000 times until we win.

Like in hockey: we cannot live 1,000,000 hockey careers until we finally succeed in one.

This is not in be-a-pro mode.

You get one hockey career.

You get one shot to reach your potential.

You get very few chances to be scouted.

So that's why you must take this stuff seriously if you want to be great and get noticed.

Stacking The Deck

The key is to realize you cannot control everything.

You cannot control freak injuries, or coaches (completely).

But, you can learn to increase your odds.

You can "stack the deck" in your favour.

To stack the deck in hockey I have noticed many patterns.

But here are the 4 main things that so many players neglect:

  1. They fail to understand themselves

  • They don't understand their Player Archetype (will cover this in detail later).

  • This leads to a lack of clarity on how to prepare themselves and how they fit into the team.

2. Develop a holistic system (will cover this in next week's article)

  • Due to this problem, the player lacks clarity on what to do.

  • They then leave many holes in their system.

  • Like failing to work on their mental game (leading to a lack of confidence, focus, or IQ)-- failing to injury-proof their hips (leading to injuries, lowered performance, and missed games).

3. Execute the system

  • Sometimes players do actually have a system in place, but they do not execute it

  • This often is because they lack accountability (a big reason why players benefit from joining our programs).

4. Adjust the system (coaching and learning)

  • Many players might work super hard but fail to see mistakes and points to improve.

  • Sometimes players could save years of trial and error with one coaching call but refuse to get the coaching they need

  • Sometimes players will also refuse to go do the research and use all the info out there.

This is why we developed the Identity Shift Method.

It exists to provide a complete solution to these problems 1 by 1 in a systematic way.

The rest of this article will be a shortened version of what we teach in our paid programs.

STEP 1) Understand Your Player Identity Archetype

(Today's Topic)

Your Player Identity is how you see yourself as a player.

Your player Identity Archetype means what general category you fit into as a player.

It's how scouts categorize you.

It's often how coaches will see you.

You are not trapped in any one of these archetypes forever as you move up levels you may naturally change your archetype.

You can also learn to change it manually.

Our identity Shift Method is designed to help you either:

  1. Break out of your current archetype by expanding your Identity

  2. Help you maximize your current archetype and become world-class at it in the shortest time possible

Now to understand your player archetype we will break it down into 5 steps:

  1. Player Archetype (for both forward and defensemen)

  2. Offensive and defensive Preferences (for forwards and defensemen)

This will help you to understand what your style is right now.

Because coaches and scouts will look at you and put you into these boxes, you must be AWARE of the box so you can

  1. Be the best at it

  2. Break out and become and become a new archetype.

P.S. It is also important to know that sometimes we are more inclined to be a certain archetype. If that's the case it may be smart to stop fighting it and embrace your strengths.

You may also be a blend of 2 or more archetypes, or find yourself switching archetypes.

This can be common when players switch lines or teams.

The key here is learning what archetype you thrive in, so you can embrace that more often than the others.

This will help you level up faster and get more looks from scouts.

Forward Identity Archetypes

Let's start by looking generally at what style of a forward you are. This is key for understanding how you fit into your current team and at the next level.

  • Role Player (Grinder)

    • This is what we usually call a role-player

    • They don't fit the role of a Two Way, Playmaker, Power, or Shooter

    • Usually, these are the bottom 6 players on a team

    • As a Grinder, your main focus is usually physicality and not getting scored on

    • On offense, usually, your job is to make life miserable for the defenseman down low

    • You want to gain an advantage on the shift (ex. getting an offensive faceoff, making big hits, or pinning the other team in their d-zone

  • Two-Way Forward

    • You are the responsible forward.

    • You understand how to play a lower-risk game

    • Usually, these players are low on the risk preference spectrum

    • A good Two-Way Forward uses the poke check and lift stick often

    • Your primary responsibility is to ensure that your team regains possession when it is lost and then keeps it once it is gained.

    • These players fit well with a playmaker and a shooter (think Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak)

    • These players provide stability and always have a great plus-minus (or they are not really a two-way forward)

  • Playmaker

    • The name of the game is passing.

    • You are a master at possessing the puck and finding open players.

    • Usually, playmakers also have a solid shot which is what opens up passing opportunities (think Kucherov)

    • Dance around the defence until a lane opens up and then pass

    • These players do best with a shooter and either a power forward or a way forward

    • Passing and deking to open up chances, those are your strengths.

  • Power Forward

    • As a Power Forward, you are above average across the board offensively.

    • Able to shoot, pass, and deke effectively

    • You don’t fit into any one category

    • You have enough of all of the stats to make your presence felt in whatever way the present situation calls for.

    • Power Forwards are for the player who couldn’t care less about conforming to a specific Player Type.

    • Power forwards also often need to be above average to create net drives and moves with speed

  • Shooter/Sniper Forward

    • The sniper’s role is to shoot and score

    • As the most accurate shooter in the game, your job is to get open and shoot first whenever possible

    • Your ability to find openings and release from anywhere must be your strong suit

    • Usually, these players have one signature shot that has a very high success rate (think Matthews or Ovechkin)


Defenseman Roles

  • Defensive-Oriented

    • This archetype makes up a majority of the defenders in any dataset.

    • These players don’t excel in any of the offensive metrics

    • Takeaways and puck recoveries are this player's most common stats and strong suit

    • Players in this archetype tend to play deeper in their own zone and don’t tend to be active on the rush

      • They prefer to support breakouts and hang back

  • These players also are usually low-risk


  • These players are similar to defensive defenders, except for having much higher

    • stick checks

    • takeaways

    • entry denials

    • puck battle wins

    • passes blocked.

  • They take more risks to create turnovers

  • They do a great job of clogging up passing lanes and pressuring the puck.

    • This leads to those higher puck recovery and takeaway numbers

    • But does not increase offensive metrics because they still play a more defensive role on the breakout and in the offensive zone.

This was a great breakdown of this Archetype:

  • Volume-Shooter

    • You rank shooting as the main pillar in your game and create a high volume of shots, like a shooter forward.

    • If there is a pass or a shot opportunity you elect to shoot a majority of the time.

    • These players also tend to jump in the rush and take more risks defensively to create offence.

  • Puck-Moving

    • You are a pass-first D-man.

    • You move the puck very well.

    • You create offence through passing as opposed to being the shooter.

    • You like to make the first breakout pass

    • These players are usually a hybrid combined with either a defence-oriented or disruptor defenseman.

  • All-Around

    • These are the typical elite defensemen of the league. The player who wins the league's best D-man will be an All-Round.

    • These players can do all 4 of the other traits well (have high success rates in each).

    • They will like to get in the rush while also understanding defensive responsibility.

Offensive Preferences (Forwards & Defenseman)

The key is to realize that none of these is better than the other. It's about understanding your habitual preferences and seeing how they align with the player you are and want to be. Once you are AWARE of these habits, you can learn to reprogram them.

Shoot/Pass Preference Description: Do you prefer to shoot first or pass first when given the option? You may also be more balanced and not have a consistent preference. 1. Shoot first 2. Pass first 3. Balanced

Shot/Deke Preference Description: Do you prefer to shoot first or deke first when given the option? You may also be more balanced and not have a consistent preference.

1. Shoot 2. Deke 3. Balanced Pass/Hold Preference Description: Do you prefer to pass first or deke first when given the option? This also connects to risk tolerance. Someone who likes to dangle a lot would be high on the hold preference index. You may also be more balanced and not have a consistent preference.

1. Pass 2. Hold 3. Balanced

Defensive Preferences (Forwards and Defenseman)

Risk Preference Description: Do you prefer to take risks or avoid them first when given the option? You may also be more balanced and not have a consistent preference.

1. Prefer risks 2. Indifferent to risk 3. Dislike risk Physicality Preference Description: Do you prefer to hit first or stick check first when given the option? You may also be more balanced and not have a consistent preference.

1. Hit 2. Stick check 3. Balanced

Aggression Preference Description: Do you prefer to be more aggressive or more passive when given the option? Think of these contexts: stick checks, takeaways, entry denials, puck battle wins, passes blocked.

1. High 2. Medium 3. Low

Being Real About Your Identity

Be honest. What is your Identity Archetype? What preferences do you have? What is your scoring scoring style (If you are a forward)?

Is that the player you want to continue to be?

For most players, the goal is to expand who they are.

I talked a lot about that in my blog on Identity here.

To expand you must realize there is a gap between who you are and who you want to be.

We call this the Identity Gap.

This gap will drive you nuts if you have the talent, but can’t be the Identity you want to be.

We see this happen with elite NHLers all of the time.

They have the skills, but mentally they just can’t break through.

This is likely because you have some sort of mental block in the way.

This block can be unwired (we teach this in detail in our programs).

I have helped over a dozen Junior A players do this, and have seen what happens when they go through an Identity Shift.

I will do this with many college and pro players soon too (currently in the process with several).

But I bet you're wondering how you even make the shift.

How To Shift Your Identity?

These Letters are about keeping it simple.

To shift your Identity, you must:

  1. Establish your Identity Archetype

  2. Establish what types your offensive and defensive preferences need to be in order to play that way

  3. Align your training habits

  4. Align your daily visualization habits (by seeing yourself play the way you want to play to engrain it in your subconscious mind)

  5. Go try it

  6. Reflect

  7. Adjust

Yes, there is a more detailed process we teach in our programs that will go deeper on all of these points.

I also highly recommend you have someone keeping you accountable to watching game film or coaching you through what you can adjust in your game.

But regardless, these steps are the common theme that the best players seem to have, and the lower players rarely ever have.

What's Next For You?

If you are certain that it’s not a mental block stopping you from shifting your identity, then it may be time to have a look at your entire performance system.

It may be an issue with:

  1. Develop a holistic system to become your ideal Identity (will cover this in next week's article).

  2. You may have issues with executing the system (need accountability).

  3. Adjust the system (need coaching).

Next week we will dig into what it takes to develop a proper system.

This is not some bulls*** “hard work" affirmation session.

This is a way to approach your development to become great.

I’ll see you next week.

And be sure to check out the Next Level Academy Program.

We are running a Season Starter Pack Sale which means you will get 20% off of the membership. But this ends at the end of September!! Hope to see you in there!

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Who is Corson Searles?

I am a former player & mental/performance advisor for AAA, junior, college, and pro hockey players. I am obsessed with dissecting atheletic performance potential, lifestyle design, and hockey development.


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