2024 USA Hockey Gold Goaltending Class Project

Presentation Google Slide

When I (Hiroki Wakabayashi)  took the Goaltending Director job of
Arizona Kachinas 3 years ago in 2021

  • 9 Elite teams with 12 goalies
  • Only 3 teams with 2 goalies
  • We had development teams but;

“None of the 8U girls wanted to play in net
and they’d cry before games if it was their turn to play goalie”

No Goalie = No Team

No Tier 1 goalie = No Tier 1 Team.

How can we make the goaltending program
more sustainable and competitive?

Background Studies

Regardless of the circumstances and levels of the competition, most clubs face similar challenges such as;

  1. Scouting recruiting goalies
  2. Development of the goalies
  3. Assignment and Management of the goalies

Examples of how clubs structure the goaltending development programs in various levels/countries.

NHL Team 1 Goaltending Consultant Interview on Nov 18 2023


  • Very systematic approach, backed up with the draft stats analysis.
  • Picture the “Dream Goalie” first, scout, draft and develop towards it.
  • Have everyone on the same page and develop with the club

Why do you have the goalie department?

  • Goalie jobs in the NHL become more important like QB in the NFL.
  • No goaltending, no good team
  • More mistakes happen in drafts than any other positions
  • More freeagent playing than 1R picks
  • From 1999 to 2016, 447 goalies drafted and only 119 played a minimum of 15 NHL games.
  • Central Scouting 13% GP played by FA
  • difficult position to find out the talent, traditionally relying on some luck
  • You have to know the situations in USA CAN EUR market
  • Then pick up the goalies and develop inside the organization
  • Share the same vision, mission on how to develop goalies.
  • Scout, GM, goalie coach, head coach, everybody has to be on the same page on evaluation, scouting and development
  • Know the prospect better even if they are in junior or college.
  • Before, goalie coaches used to bring their guys and develop because there were no strategies from the organization.

Staffing and Development

  • Team 1 has 3 goalie scouts, USA, CAN and EUR, all ex-goalie, ex-goalie coach to share the same vision
  • 2 goalie coaches as of now but it will be 3 goalie coaches to develop goalies in the same system
  • Scouts can even talk to junior goalies.
  • Some leagues are easy to interact with and some other leagues are difficult.


  • Picture the “Dream Goalie”, scout, draft and develop towards it.
  • *** Details are confidential ***
  • This is based on the draft stats studies

Quality for High End Prospects

  • Size, 6-2 minimum, not skinny, could be around 220
  • smooth glove hand-eye coordination
  • quickness, athleticism
  • Must be good early, like #1 in CHL 17 years old
  • Mental is evaluated differently with another department
  • The goalies don’t fit these criteria could still be developed as FA

Then you have late bloomers for FA

  • Late Bloomer can be hidden behind #1 guys all life
  • For example, small but quick could guy take an early spot when they are young

Opinions on younger goalies nowadays?

  • They are better technically for sure
  • better athlete, trained well off ice
  • size get bigger, 6-6 goalie will be normal
  • Game is getting better, therefore more challenging for goalies
  • Required more skills to compete

NHL Team 2, Director of Goaltending Interview on Dec 7, 2023


  • More traditional approach
  • Draft, use FA and trade to fill the depth chart and develop each goalie from there
  • Plans to increase the goaltending staff for more development

Why is having one goalie coach not enough?

  • Most of the prospects are still developing
  • Currently there are Full time NHL, AHL coach and ECHL/junior/Europe coach
  • Trying to develop 3-4 goalies per year to play in NHL
  • 2 goalie scouts
  • Full Time ECHL goalie coach needed soon

Structure and Strategies of the goalie department

  • Trying to have all the position (staring and backup) covered in each level
  • Draft to have them play in NHL some point of their career

How do you develop within and outside of the clubs?

  • Communication within the development camp
  • 3rd goalie coach takes care of them during the season
  • Communicate with full time development coach (non goalie coach)

How much authority does the department have?

  • Prioritize the goalies order in draft
  • Give input then submit to GM

Is the European Development Model better in consistency?

  • Need to see the data to evaluate
  • Developing through the same system for years can be good if you are suitable for it but if not???

Opinions on younger goalies nowadays?

  • Technically very good
  • Good conditioning
  • Athleticism is questionable
  • Too robotic, hockey sense is weak

What do you expect from the goalie coaches and clubs at youth level? market

  • Basic is important
  • Young goalie need more athletic development off the ice
  • Train hands & feet when younger
  • Need to understand it’s the most athletic position

FIN Liiga Team Director of Goaltending, Jonathan Iliahty Interview Dec 14, 2023


  • Taking advantage of typical European top to bottom club model, goaltending development is very well structured.
  • Dedicated goalie coach for each team, from U9 to pro.
  • In regular practice, every team must have 10 mins skill time in the beginning and goalies work with goalie coaches EVERY PRACTICE there.
  • Goalie coaches share the information to pursue their own coaching development path.
  • Goalie training is consistently secured every practice, plus some extra goalies only training
  • Big club systematically helps smaller local clubs with training information etc.

Vaasa Sports Director of Goaltending

  • Jonathan is in charge of U20 to U9 goalie coaches
  • The pro team has their own goalie coach
  • Each team (U20 to U9) has its own goalie coach
  • He works with the goalie coaches
  • He organizes the development path for goalie coaches too
  • He is the bridge in between the pro and youth goalie coaches
  • He shares the knowledge from pro to youth goalie coaches

How to share the coaching information?

  • He hosts coach meetings with similar age groups.
  • He runs weekly goalie practice with similar age groups.
  • He Organizes the Monthly Coaches Club (including pro, development U15, U16 teams) to discuss topics

Are goalie coaches paid?

  • Only the goalie coach with pro team gets paid as fulltime
  • The goaltending director is part time
  • Youth coaches with stipend
  • Most top league teams in Finland hire 2 fulltime goalie coaches

How to make the teams?

  • Try to develop local goalies first
  • Tryout for non-local goalies if necessary, depends of the year

Goalie Selection Criteria

  • Work ethic
  • Athleticism
  • Play other sports
  • Reaction

Goalies Only Ice

  • Two Weekly sessions, younger 9-12 old and older 13-16 old.
  • Plus optional goalie ice
  • In regular practice, every team must have 10 mins skill time in the beginning and goalies work with goalie coaches EVERY PRACTICE there.
  • The National Federation really pushes these goalie centric practice structures to each club and it’s working.

Do you scout outside of the club for better talents?

  • Big club helps smaller local clubs with training information etc systematically
  • So the smaller club talents can be an be scouted in the process

How much authority does the department have?

  • The goalie coach has authority to pick goalies for his team

Any private coaching going on?

  • Not really, maybe in a big city like Helsinki
  • If there is no goalie coach or not enough sessions, they might ask for private sessions.

What do you do Off season?

  • Aug to Apr then summer training
  • Off ice till mid-June
  • 10 months with the team, then 2 months summer training program is given
  • Arp to May no skate for younger kids
  • Pro team skates till mid-June then they are not allowed to have team ice mid June till Aug (camp time).

Team Fee

  • 500 Euro for a season plus game fee
  • Pro team’s revenue helps junior and youth teams
  • Ice is cheap
  • Downside: Tough to get good coaches because of the low cost model

Most important things about goalie development

  • Make the goalies being taken cared
  • Have 3 years plan
  • Culture to produce goalies
  • Culture to make goalies know what it takes to make the next level.
  • Culture to compete against each other

SWE SHL Mikael Vernblom Interview Dec 27, 2023


  • Well structured goaltending development.
  • Goalies commit to the club from U16, completely opposite from the North American model
  • Goalie coaches sharing the information from youth to national team level
  • The club has a plan and the goalie has a plan. Communicate to make the best out of the goalie.

Linköping HC Goaltending Coach

  • Mikael has worked with Thomas Magnusson on 12-13 national teams.
  • Now with SHL goalie coach.
  • He’s also the Video coach for the club (80% of the goalie coaches in SHL are also video coaches). Mainly tagging video during the games.
  • Dual job for money efficiency because the federation mandated the goalie coach.

Job Description

  • On ice with the Senior team every practice everyday, before or after practice
  • traveling with the team
  • Video tagging

Structure of the Goaltending Development

  • Dedicated full-time goalie coach for the Senior team
  • Assistant of Sr goalie coach usually takes care of the  U20, U18
  • Women’s team usually has an assistant/goalie coach
  • Then there are goalie coaches all the team all the way down to youngest as U9
  • Runs monthly Junior to U9 goalie sessions (called summit), video sessions and summer goalie camps
  • Sr goalie coach is overseeing the development of all the goalies
  • There is a master game plan but emphasis more of fun till U16
  • More technical training for younger group and the tactics elements are hidden in the drills till they get older

Goalie coaches get paid?

  • Sr, Jr, Women coaches are paid full-time
  • Youth coaches are volunteer
  • No parents coach for U15 and older

How to Scout, Place the goalies within or from outside of the club?

  • Linköping is the biggest city in the area therefore, scouting from outside happens but not for the kids too young.
  • From U16, they form the hockey school (gymnasium, 3 years) and they scout from around the area (1-3 outside and others are local).
  • Basically no trades during 3 years
  • Students must commit to one club
  • Sr goalie coach scouts for the school
  • North American model of trying out every year can work with huge registration numbers but not in Sweden
  • Sweden hockey is all about education

Criteria of Goalie Evaluation

  • Personality
  • Skills
  • Something else than all strategies
  • Not occupied with the size of the goalies
  • How to use size is more important
  • Sweden goalies are well structured (by each club and time)

National Team goalie coaching job

  • The National Goalie Coach talks with the club goalie coach, studies their style of goaltending and tries to follow their ways as much as possible.
  • Very important that goalie coaches share information!

How to Spend Off Season

  • On the ice few times a week for spring tournament
  • No club activities in July
  • Summer goalie camp last week of July
  • Goalies need to be athletes in the off-season.
  • Pro goalies: basic training elements are same as skaters and add some goalie specific portion
  • Youth goalies require eye-hands training

Most important elements of the goalie development

  • The club must have the plan
  • Then ask the goalie what his/her plan is?
  • Make sure to have them feel good

Washington Pride Program Director Kush Sidhu Interview, Jan 17, 2024


  • Dedicated goalie coach works with all the goalies in the club, works with each team twice a week.
  • Utilize skill sessions to work for the goalie training
  • Putting emphasis on the gym work to become an athlete
  • Expecting all coaches to be somewhat trained as goalie coaches in future

Title and job description

  • Program Director and U19 coach, also a former goalie himself
  • He oversees all the teams practice, JWHL 19U, 16U and 14U teams (4 teams)

Goalie development structure

  • 2 goalies per team
  • Some clubs around outsource goalie coaches to private goalie schools but that’s not enough
  • He hires a goalie coach and also tries to develop her
  • Teams practice 3-4 times a week, GK coach will be there at least twice a week
  • Utilize Tuesday skills day for goalie instruction
  • Talk with the goalie coach every practice and provide time to work
  • Video works, evaluation, reports
  • No goalie only ice because it’s not efficient

Feeder program?

  • As the local rule, a club can only have tier 1 or tier 2 teams
  • Therefore tier 1 clubs scout local U12 boys club or tier 2 girls clubs

Any guidelines for Goaltending?

  • No particular guidelines/styles to follow
  • The biggest expectation for the goalies is to be accountable
  • Everyone goes to gym every day to become athletes

How much authority in recruiting, tryouts, practice planning and club decision

  • Goalie coach gives some input for sure but director calls at last

What to improve?

  • Goalies need to play puck better
  • How to work with small goalies
  • How to become more competitive
  • All coaches should be goalie coaches
  • Is adding another goalie coach good or not?
    Good to have more eyes but the consistency would be questionable.

The Takeaways

“Hiring a goalie guy” is not enough.
Goalie Instruction must not be Extra, nor Optional.

The club needs to hire a Goalie Director to set up the strategies and budget for;

  1. Consistent goalie ice time and Structured Training
  2. Feeder System
  3. Introduction and Retaining Events

Organize and secure consistent Goalie Instruction Time, Space and staff within the club budget is the very first step for the club so it won’t be the afterthoughts.

There are several ways to run goalie practice, within or separate from team practices but minimum would be twice a week, 60 mins total for each team

Establishing the Feeder System and help them develop is very crucial for long term success.
Elite or Tier program should help the goalies in affiliated house/development programs in order to develop enough numbers of the goalies in future sustainably.

Building The Depth Chart and Goalie Database is a great way to keep all the information together as birth year, stats, playing histories, etc. Sharing those information with headcoaches before the tryouts is very useful.

As goaltending knowledge is specialized and not well know to public, developing the communication and education tools like newsletter, vlog, etc. for coaches and parents is also important.

Lastly, every organization is responsible for hosting or supporting Introduction and Retaining Events for aspiring young kids who want to try out the position in front of the net. Afterall, we need kids to choose this position or you don’t have hockey teams. USA Hockey is providing tools for hosting those event to help the local organization.

Here are the examples of what we do at Kachinas since 2021.

The Kachinas Model

Goalie Training is not Optional, nor Extra!

Goalie Director and 3 Goalie Coaches on staff

30 mins x 2 per week for Each Elite Team on shared ice

Both teams prepare to provide the goalie coach a part of the neutral zone ice to work with the goalies at a time in the first 30 mins. The goalie coach usually takes two goalies at a time and rotate after 15 mins.

4 Week Cycle

Every week we work on the subject as listed and we come back to the same subject after completing Week 1-4.
This way we can repeat each subject 5 times in 20 weeks of skills sessions. Weekly practice visits would basically follow the same subject as skills sessions but we can customize the drills according to goalies’ personal needs as we work with two to four goalies at a time there.

Week 1 Subject : Basic Saves
Week 2 Subject : Rebound and Lateral Movement
Week 3 Subject : Short Plays and Behind the Net
Week 4 Subject : Screen Shots and Puck Handling

More Details here

We take three steps for every skill we work on.


are the essential patterns of body control (locomotion) that are required to achieve certain skills, such as edge control and footwork. They do not have to look like real game skills and sometimes they are overly exaggerated in order to create uncomfortable conditions for superior body control.

Closed Skills

are more resembling to the game skills but practiced without options for decision making. For example, the shooter only takes shot on your glove high. Or the shooter only pass and won't take shot, etc.

Open Skills

are finally more game like situations with some options such as "glove or blocker", "pass or shoot"

You can introduce simple Open Skill drills for beginners too but the Mechanics and Closed Skill parts must be practiced simultaneously.

The Example of The Skill Development Stages from Practice to Game

Dedicated Goalie Development Coach for the Development Teams

We have a dedicated Goalie Coach for our feeder program called "Development Teams" who play in local house leagues.

The development coach oversees and work with the potential goalies in 8/10U level and also elite goalie prospects in 12-16U levels.

Developing the feeder program is very essential for us in Arizona where female hockey population is still relatively low. We we don't develop younger goalies for every age group, we'll sure to struggle forming the team in near future.

8/10U teams rotate the goalie role every game and even the full-time goalies play out every other week for most cases.

Development Skills Sessions

The Development Teams have a weekly skills sessions every Tuesday.
We utilize one corner of the ice to work exclusively with the goalies while other skaters are working in stations.

Training concept follows the 4 Week Cycle model but the contents are way "Less Structured" than the ones for the elite teams' goalies.

50% Mechanics / Closed Skills
and 50% fun drills with "Hidden Themes"

Mentor Program with Elite Goalies

We have a few goalies from elite teams voluntarily helping out these skills sessions. They may apply to get a volunteer credit from their schools in the end of the season in return

Try Goalie Every Week in Development Skills Sessions

This is the real game changer for us.
We prepare Quik Pads every week and the mentor goalie goes around the rink to find some goalie wannabies so anyone who wants to try goalie every week.
This way we have average 3-4 goalies to work with and occasionally 6 future goalies!

Hosting Try Goalie For Free Event

We work with Arizona Amateur Hockey Association and host USA Hockey Try Goalie For Free Event at our home rink.
Although the event is co-ed, we target and encourage girls to participate so they can enjoy playing in net for the first time and hopefully advance to the retaining events below.

Lil’ Gibbers Program
= Introduction Class for Beginners

Lil' Gibbers is the first step of formal goalie training for beginners exclusively for girls. It has been running since 2021 as an integral part of Kachinas program.

This program works as the bridge in between the goaltending introduction events like Try Goalie For Free and the house/development teams so the beginner girls will have some fundamentals before joining the teams.

Many goalies in the Elite teams have been through this program and it keeps going.

Details below.


Goalie Database
= Data and depth chart of all female goalies in Arizona

We collect the information of youth aged female goalies as many as we can regardless of the club they may play for in order to create the database and depth chart of the local female goalies.

This way we know how many female goalies are in each birth year and who they are playing for at what levels, etc. so we could plan the teams we can have well ahead of the tryouts.

Goalie must be considered somewhat like public property of local hockey community, simply because you won't have a team without it.

Therefore, we work with Arizona Amateur Hockey Association to create and share such database for all youth programs so the clubs can help each other to organize and make the best fit for each goalie for their development.

Kachinas Since The Program Has Started


  • 14U, 16U, 19U all played the Tier 2 Nationals Finals


  • 19U played the Tier 2 Nationals Final


  • 9 Elite teams – Tier 1 with
    15 plus 3 practice goalies
  • 14U, 16U, 19U made the Tier 1 RMD finals
  • All Tier 1 goalies dominated the Sv% in RMD tournament
  • 16U Tier 1 made the Nationals
  • 2 NCAA commits!

Most importantly,

Now 8U girls are queuing up to play goalie in games!

Our quest continues.
I hope this helps your clubs and the program directors.

Feel free to contact Hiroki if you have any questions or if you need help to structure your goaltending program.