Mike Hastings has a keen eye for talented hockey players. The Crookston native and head coach of the Minnesota State men’s hockey team has had some good ones, too. In his first three seasons with the Mavericks, his teams have won one Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championship and two conference playoff titles. They have also gone to three consecutive NCAA tournaments.
So what kinds of skills catch his eye when he’s coaching and scouting?
“Can they skate?” he asks. “When a puck gets on their stick, do they make good decisions with it?”
But several other characteristics stand out to him, too. He also looks for “attitude and effort” and players who put team successes above individual achievements.
Here are the kinds of players, Hastings says, who make coaches stand up and take notice.
“Are they faster in certain areas—at being able to give a puck but also being in position to get it back? Are they involved the entire time that they’re out there? Sometimes that might be waiting, waiting, and then hopping into an area to receive a pass. It’s not just about working hard for the entire shift; it’s about working hard and working smart.”
“Do they finish what they start? It’s fun to play offense. Do they play at one speed when they have the puck, and then do they play at a completely different speed when they don’t? Do they go above and beyond? If they have some extra ice time, are they working on something? Are they doing things to work on their game?”
“I really enjoy seeing players work on their game when their coach isn’t telling them, mom isn’t telling them, dad isn’t telling them—just for the love of getting better. Players know what they’re good at, and those are things that most kids love to work on. But are they working on some things that they’re not so good at?”
“I want to see interaction with teammates. I want to see interaction with the coach. I want to see if they are doing things that are conducive to positive energy, whether it’s on the bench or on the ice. I watch our guys on a daily basis and how they act with their teammates when they get pushed. If it’s an environment where things might be negative I’d rather see nothing—that it doesn’t bother them and that they have some thick skin. Do they understand the game of hockey comes with failures, and do they learn from those failures?”
"Are they being good people? Are they working hard? Are they being a good example? Are they being productive as a teammate either by helping themselves or helping others? That could be picking up pucks, cleaning up in the lockerroom, leaving a place as well or better than when they found it. Are they contributing to the team getting better, or are they the one who slows everything down?"