How to Defend With Angling, Danny Heath

How to Defend With Angling, Danny Heath

Social media has made an enormous impact on our every day lives and has changed our accessibility to news, learning resources and of course, to people around the globe. In the sporting world, it's provided a platform to skill coaches like Danny Heath to showcase their expertise and connect with others through the internet, sharing drills and ideas, and making the hockey world a better place.


We know him as Danny Heath, but on Instagram, you'll find him as @danny_hype where he coaches in his home of Mankato, Minnesota. Through Instagram, Danny shares his best drills and teaching points on skating, puck control and hockey sense, providing a space for players to improve their skills and coaches to grow their knowledge. More recently, he released an at home, dry-land training program called Project Hockey, which helps players build their strength and skills away from the rink, bringing their on-ice game to the next level.


We connected with Danny and are excited to share some of his insight on one of the issues that consistently plagues players at every level of hockey, and how coaches can use drills to teach and reinforce this skill in different settings. With that, we give you Danny Heath's take on how to create the perfect angle.



As a coach, the most common mistake I see AT ALL levels is a player's inability to angle and identify how to use their stick to close the gap. Even at the NHL level, nearly all goals are scored from a fumble of the puck OR a poor angle on the opposition. In many cases, a bad angle will open up the ice, create odd-player rushes and cost a team on the score board. A perfect example of this is shown below with Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Yanny Gourde.

Although there are many things to pick apart in this example, we want to focus on the inability to stop the play in the neutral zone, before any offense could be generated. With proper stick positioning and a quality angle, this play would have ended at center, but instead, it opened up ice for Washington to own and take full advantage of.

Regardless of a player's position, developing proper angling skills is one of the most important things they can do. Starting at the mite level, it's vital that these skills are learned early, with the habits being reinforced throughout their entire hockey career.

My tried and true keys to a successful angle are:

1. Stick positioning

  • When angling a 1 vs 1, a defender's goal should be to take away the center ice and force their opposition into "bad ice", ensuring there is no opportunity for a cut back. In defending a cutback, the defender should drag their stick behind their body while closing the gap and then quickly shift to "stick on puck" to completely take away the play.

2. Quiet feet

  • Avoiding unnecessary crossovers and lower body movement is a huge key to angling. Keeping a strong base and using a powerful inside edge will allow players to quickly change directions if need be. At the more skilled levels of hockey, offensive players will wait until defenders cross over and then make a cut in the opposite direction, leaving the defender vulnerable to be beat.

3. Contact through the hands

  • The last step of the angle is separating the puck from the player. If your league has body contact, hitting through the hands is a sure fire way to force a loose puck and gain possession. Without body contact, the defender can finish the play off with a strong stick on the puck, knocking the puck free for your team to control.


When performed well, a successful angle is a thing of beauty. Below Erik Karlsson demonstrates a textbook performance against his now team, San Jose Sharks. Karlsson uses his stick and body position to take away the center of the ice and as he closes his gap, cuts off the play with a solid hit, removing any scoring chance. 


With those key points in mind, here are 5 of my go-to drills to reinforce the skill of angling. Do the work and take your player's game to the next level! 


1. Karlsson's Angle 1 vs 1

Tags: 1 vs 1, Angling

  • The drill starts when X X2 skates down the wall with the puck trying to score on the net
  • X X1 reacts to XX 2 and angles the player down the wall away from the net
  • X X2 is NOT allowed to cut back on the other side of the Pylon pylon

2. Burn's Angle 1 vs 1

Tags: 1 vs 1, Angling

  • Coach dumps a puck into the corner for X X1 to retrieve
  • X X1 can skate right into the zone, but X X2 has to skate wide around the tire before cutting across zone and angling their opposition
  • Play out a 1 vs 1

Burn's Angle 2 vs 2

Tags: 2 vs 2, Angling

  • Coach dumps a puck into the corner for X X1 to retrieve
  • X X1 and X X2 can skate right into the zone, but X X3 and X X4 have to skate wide around the tire before cutting across zone and angling their opposition
  • Play out a 2 vs 2

3. Doell's Angle 1 vs 1

Tags: 1 vs 1, Angling

  • X X2 pass the puck cross ice to X X1
  • X X1 skates with the puck up and around the tires trying to beat X X2 back to the Net net
  • X X2 skates to the middle of the ice, mirrors X X1 and tries to angle them back to the wall

4. Doughty 1 vs 1

Tags: 1 vs 1, Angling

  • F skates down the wall, around the bumper and then drives the net for a shot on goal
  • D skates forwards, pivots around the bumper and then skates forwards and angles F

5. Marchand's Stick Battle (Game)

Tags: 1 vs 1, Angling, Battle

  • X X and O and Circle stick handle pucks in circle, while trying to knock the other player's puck out of the circle
  • Whoever still has the puck will play offense, exit zone and go in on a 1v1
  • Alternate sides of the drill




All of the drills above can be found in the CoachThem Drill Marketplace and have been put together in the Plans Marketplace under Newsletter > "Danny Heath: How to Defend With Angling".

A big thanks to Danny for sharing his knowledge with the CoachThem team. Be sure to follow him on Instagram @danny_hype for more great skill drills and videos!

You can also learn more about his at home, dry-land training program Project Hockey at:



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