How to Choose a Goalie: 6 Key Factors

How to Choose a Goalie
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The Right Way to Choose a Goalie


By Bob Janosz


You’re captain or coach of your team and you must choose a goalie for the upcoming season. What should you look for when evaluating a goaltender?

There are several things to watch for and numerous actions that a goalie can do to get noticed. While many of these items may be tough to pick out in any tryout, the most important ones should stand out. Here are six essential traits to keep in mind to help you choose a goalie:

Fundamentals/Edgework The goalie should have superior fundamentals: Good stance; efficient edgework; proper save selections; good positioning; and be technically sound. Be wary of the goalie that has to make several “unbelievable” saves. This usually means that he or she is often out of position. Although having fine athletic skills is a trait you want to see, it is tough to play consistently with just reflexes and athleticism. At the same time you don’t want a goalie that is too robotic. To effectively choose a goalie, there needs to be a balance of fundamentals and athleticism.

Quickness/Athleticism/Puck Tracking Quick and athletic goalies have a better chance at stopping the puck. They have the ability to get square to the puck faster, to arrive “on time” or even “early.” Athleticism also comes in handy when things don’t go as planned; an athletic goalie can still find a way to make the save. I’ll include puck tracking in this category as a very necessary trait. The goalie needs quick reflexes to react to the puck to make saves. I’ve seen several goalies that have excellent fundamentals and edgework but they track and react to the puck poorly.

Attitude This covers a number of things including coachability, work ethic, and being a good teammate. If the goalie thinks they know everything and are not open to any suggestions, they will have a difficult time improving and advancing. Even goalies in the N.H.L. learn on a daily basis and are always trying to improve their game. Work ethic is huge; goalies that do not work hard will only make it so far with their natural abilities. Work ethic is also contagious and the other players will work and play harder if they see that their goalie works hard and competes every day. As for getting along with teammates, the goalie doesn’t necessarily have to be a vocal leader but they need to gain their teammates’ respect and trust. This adds to team unity and will help with locker room chemistry.

Size With the current trend most coaches think bigger is better. This may or may not be true. Although a bigger goalie will fill more net than a smaller goalie, this does not mean that they’re always better. You also have to look at each individual’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the most important aspect: who stops more pucks.

Mental Toughness The goalie is the one who faces the most pressure on the team. And if they’re not mentally tough they cannot carry the weight of the team. They must be thick-skinned so that they can accept responsibility for every goal that goes in—even when they know it wasn’t their fault. There is nothing worse than a goalie blaming their teammates for goals allowed.

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Big-Game Ability This could be classified in the description on mental toughness, but I feel it is so important that it needs its own category. You want someone who rises to the occasion and not one who folds under pressure. Big-time goalies make key saves at key times in the game.

As you can see, there are several factors to consider when choosing a goalie for your team. An important part of the tryout process is to include a variety of game situation drills, as well as a live scrimmage where you can see more aspects of the goaltender’s physical and mental make-up.

Bob Janosz runs the Janosz School of Goaltending In-Season Clinics and Private Lessons. For more information go to or call (716) 308-9224. Look for more valuable articles for goalies from Bob Janosz, coming soon! is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.


  1. I recall a meeting I had with my Jr. A Coach, a former NCAA player and very tough on us and me. He called me out of the dressing room before practice to an office to point out teammates, the Captain, had a tough time getting a good practice out of me. It was their need to stay sharp and I had to get the point! It seemed I had a choice do it or leave! I was being challenged! From my perspective, rest is good, careful but good shooting and drills help, accuracy is essential, injuries in practice are discouraging and I suffered them. My skills in toughness, save % and wins were very good, so post secondary invites were looming. A lot more to say but I responded, however it is a two-way street for goaltenders and teammates!

  2. A good article.

    A lost art with today’s gargantuan equipment, is footwork and angles. Monster equipment makes some goalies, both young and old, seem almost immobile at times. The ability to come charging out in an emergency has become almost comical, as goalies with pads halfway up to the their wais, seem to have difficulty performing this seemingly critical part of the game.

    It would seem too often, now the rote method for making a stop, is to hit the ground and wait for the puck to hit you. There was a time when equipment was much smaller and less protective, when goalkeepers had to move their hands and legs to stop shots, as opposed to letting it hit them as they do today. The example I always point to is the glove save. How many times does the keeper actually move the glove and pick the puck out of the air, as opposed to having the shooter hit the mitt, and then the glove is moved? My guess is 90% of the time.

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