Neutral Zone Trap Clarified

Neutral Zone Trap Clarified

Seems like I’m doing a lot of Q&A work these days! There have been quite a few questions on the Neutral Zone Trap I diagrammed up a few years ago. So I decided to make a quick clarification video to resolve some of these questions. Before we jump straight in, let me just state again that there are many ways of structuring systems. Sometimes these differences are adjustments to what the other team is doing, sometimes they’re just the coach’s personal preference. Either way, use this info if it makes sense for your situation. If not, don’t use it! Here are a few key points to remember:

Neutral Zone Trap Clarification - YouTubeNeutral Zone Trap
1. The trap is a CONCEPT: make it look like the board-side breakout is open, then systematically shut it down
2. There is more than one way this can be done
3. Adjustments should be made depending on how high the opposing team’s wingers are, and where the breakout is initiating from
4. Ability to angle will make or break the trap – funnel the breakout into the “kill zone”
5. Try to shut down the other team’s breakout BEFORE the red line (to eliminate the option for a dump in)
6. Generate offense with quick NZ transitions after the turnover!

Hope this helps!

Winnipeg Jets’ Penalty Kill (DISSECTED)

A Detailed Analysis of the Winnipeg Jets’ Penalty Kill Forecheck and Defensive Zone Coverage Setups

In this video we walk through a detailed analysis of the Penalty Kill Systems the Winnipeg Jets are using. Remember, systems play is very subjective – everyone has their own opinions… this is my two cents worth!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to look for:


  • 1-3 Forecheck: F1 tends to commit too early, allowing the Wild defenseman to walk out from behind the net uncontested.
  • F1’s Angle: Breaks my cardinal rule for trap-style forechecks – DON’T GET BEAT BEHIND YOU!
  • NZ Transitions: Jets rely too heavily on picking off passes in the neutral zone, and not enough on solid angling and positioning. This won’t work as well against the better teams.


  • Triangle +1 against Umbrella: Not a good systems match-up in my opinion. Angles are off, and it allows the opposing team’s “Quarterback” to easily pass to whomever he wants.
  • Standard Box against Overload: Good systems match-up, but the Jets need to tighten up on a few things (see next few points)
  • Weak-side Forward: Tends to over commit, leaving the opposing far defenseman open
  • Net-front Coverage: Jets are letting a player sit right in the middle of their coverage, in front of the net
  • 5 on 3: Too passive (in my opinion)



3 on 3 “D” Support

3 on 3 “D” Support is a great small area game to work on game situations in tight quarters

This small area game drill give players a chance to work on quick transitions, give and go passes and set-ups, and swinging to become a passing option. It’s a fantastic drill that can be used by teams at almost any level! Here’s the diagram:

3on3_d_support3 on 3 “D” Support

1. Forwards battle 3 on 3 in NZ, but can’t pass imaginary goal line.
2. If puck passes goal line, respective defenseman must break it out (he can grab a new puck to keep up the pace).
3. Forwards must swing to get open. Opposing forwards can pressure Defenseman, but can’t cross line.
4. Defenseman can’t cross line either.



On the Dot 3 on 2

Here’s another great Small Area Game Drill to work 3 on 2’s and quick transitions

This can be a fantastic drill, depending on the skill level of your players. At best it’s a quick-paced, high-intensity, odd-man-rush drill. At worst it can be quite slow, with too much standing around… So, as I’ve often said, USE YOUR “INFINITE WISDOM” AS COACH to determine whether this drill will be a good fit for your team 🙂

on_the_dotOn the Dot 3 on 2

2 on 2 plus 1. Players on dots can pass or shoot, but can’t leave the dots.

Make it 3 on 3 plus 1 after a while

UPDATE: I suggest letting the “dot men” move anywhere within their half, so it becomes a true 3 on 2 in each zone (notice added cones)




Center Boundary 2 on 1

Here’s one of my favorite Small Area Games to work 2 on 1’s and quick transitions

The Center Boundary 2 on 1 is a fabulous small area game drill that works on quick transitions and 2 on 1’s in tight areas. Since there are 6 players participating at once, there isn’t a lot of waiting around between turns. Keep the “shifts” short; between 1:00 to 1:30, and make sure the players are going hard the entire time! Here’s the explanation and diagram:

center_line_boundaryCenter Line Boundary 2 on 1

1. Set up a 2 on 1 in each side.
2. Nobody can cross the center line.
3. When the defender gets the puck back, he/she must pass the puck across the line to the forwards on the other side.

Start with 2 on 1, work up to 3 on 2.