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How to Shoot a Hockey Puck (15 Shots Used by Pros)

quinn hughes shot

When it comes to ice hockey, there are 4 primary shot types that come to mind - the wrist shot, slap shot, snapshot and backhand

These are shooting techniques you should master throughout your playing career.

If you've joined hockey development camps or youth programs as a kid, coaches will likely start off by teaching you the wrist shot.

It is quickest and easiest way to shoot a puck.

As you transition into your teenage years, you'll be taught the basics of the slap shot and snap shot to add to your arsenal. The backhand is also an effective option, but is mostly used when a player doesn't have a clear forehand shot or is up close to the net.

In addition to these shots, there are a host of other ones that make up 25% of goals scored in the NHL.

Before we get to the full list, let's take a look at the importance of shooting in hockey.

Along the way, we'll reveal a few more shots that are effective against advanced goalies.

Why is shooting so important in hockey?

The objective of hockey is to score more goals than your opponent.

In order to outscore the opposing team, players must shoot the puck past the goaltender.

Teams are likely to score more goals the more they attempt shots on net. 

Players can score by shooting directly on the goalie, through rebounds, tip-ins, one-timers and more.

As you play at more competitive levels of hockey, the harder it becomes to beat a goalie clean.

At this stage, you will be taught more shots from the list in order to increase your chances of scoring. These include screen shots, one-timers and tip-ins.

Basically, goalies will have more trouble stopping pucks when: 

  • Their view is obstructed by another player
  • They have to readjust their positioning from one side to another
  • The puck suddenly changes direction on the way to the net

Let's now dive into the list. Here I outlined every shot that came to mind. Some of these shots happen are so rarely, but when they result in goals, they'll be all over the highlight reels.

List of 15 Hockey Shots (Alphabetical Order)

Shot TypeDescription
1BackhandA shot delivered using the backside of the blade.
2Bank shotA shot whereby the puck indirectly makes its way into the net. The puck can ricochet off the post, bank off the boards or redirect off another player.
3Chip ShotSimilar to chip shot done in golf onto the green. The player whacks their stick right between the puck and the ice. The shot can be more effective for elevation if the puck is standing, rather than flat, on the ice.
4LacrosseA shot made famous lately again by Andrei Svechnikov where he got the puck to sit flat on the blade of his stick and scooped it into the upper corner of the net.
5No ShotA play made famous by Nikita Kucherov on the penalty shot/breakaway whereby he pretends to stickhandle the puck and let's the puck continue its trajectory towards the net. It's so effective because, the goalie thinks the player is pulling one side, while the puck continues on the original path.
6One timerA shot made off a moving puck that was passed from the carrier to receiver. The play results in either a slapshot or swipe, resembling a snapshot. See this one timer from Henrik Zetterberg.
7RedirectSimilar to a tip-in, however the shot puck changes its course completely and loses most of its speed.
8Screen shotThis is a situational play whereby the puck carrier releases a shot with a defenseman blocking their own goalie's field of vision. The player screening the goalie can also on the same team as the shooter.
9Slap ShotA shot where the player winds up their stick parallel to the ice or higher and aggressively slaps the ice (slightly) and puck on the downswing.
10Snap ShotA shot where the puck remains stationary while the player flexes their stick like a bow and shifts all their weight into the forward leaning leg and the shaft of the stick. The puck is then quickly snapped off the stick blade with high velocity.
11Swat ShotA shot made by swatting at the puck in mid-air. Made famous by the countless hand-eye coordination plays by Sidney Crosby of hitting the puck towards the net the same way a baseball player makes contact with a ball.
12Tap InThis is a situational play where the puck lies close to an open net and the player simply has to tap the puck in the net for the goal. The net may be open because the goalie is out of position or was pulled for an extra attacker.
13Tip-InA shot where the puck is tipped by a stick on its way to the net. The resulting tip causes the puck to slightly change its original trajectory without losing speed.
14Wrap AroundA move where the player carries the puck around the back of the net, spins towards the front and attempts to tuck the puck from on the outer-post side.
15Wrist ShotA shot delivered on net by using your forearms (especially your wrists) to thrust the puck forward. The puck is dragged by the stick blade a few feet along the ice to build up momentum prior to releasing the shot.

Note that I've kept goals scored off the skates from the list. 

This is because players can't legally kick the puck past the goalie. As the NHL rule states, players cannot use a "distinct kicking motion" to direct the puck in the net.

So now that we've covered every shot type, let's dive right into which is the most effective.

Which shot type is most effective?

The most basic shot happens to also be the most effective - the wrist shot. 

But there is a catch.

You'll need to build strength, quickness and accuracy into your wrist shot. The second option is the snapshot, a variation of the classic wrist shot.

In order to score against great goalies on clean shots (no obstructions), you'll need a little elbow grease in that shot. 

Two NHL players that come to mind that shoot very well are Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon.

Take a look at this video from MacKinnon scoring on the rush. That shot is a bullet.

What are my options if I don't possess the best wrist shot?

You're in luck, because there are so many elements to the game of hockey.

You can score in so many ways, especially if you incorporate good passing sequences with your teammates. That will help you get the goalie off balance, create rebounds and get shots up close in the dangerous areas.

I've also written a complete review on why passing is important where I outline the most important passes that can improve your game.

What about the slap shot?

Personally, I regret spending all my teenage years perfecting my slap shot.

For starters, I'm not shooting anywhere close to 100+ mph like professionals do.

I could have worked more on my wrist shot and develop better speed and shooting accuracy. 

Although the slap shot is the third most effective shot to possess, it has its drawbacks.

First off, the wind up to a slap shot takes time and the opposition can easily telegraph the play.

Unless you can take a slap shot on a screen, you should consider another shot type, pass or deke as an option.

Secondly, you don't have much maneuverability once you begin the wind up.

The puck is sitting on the ice while you swing your stick back. You're now vulnerable to the poke check.

So to sum up, you need time and space for a good slap shot. 

hockey slap shot

So, what about the snap shot?

As expected, the snap shot is the second best shooting option.

But on average, NHL players score over 3x as often on wrist shots than on snap shots. See the NHL stats for the 2015-16 here.

This came as a surprise to me. Maybe this has to do with shooting accuracy. 

But, I find that the snap shot travels faster and is released much quicker compared to a wrist shot.

Let me know why you think that is in the comments section.

Where are most goals scored in the NHL?

Most goals are scored 10-20 feet from the net (low to mid-slot area) and constitute 34.3% of all goals scored in a season.

Of those 2,598+ goals (7,577 goals total), 52.5% come from wrist shots, 15.1% from tip-ins and 15.3% from backhands. 

In addition, 51.8% of all goals were scored off the wrist shot primarily from 6-30 feet from the net.

The next most effective shots were the snap shot at 15.2%, followed by the slap shot at 9.6%. 

The snap shot is most lethal between 20-40 feet, anywhere from the middle to high slot area.

For a full breakdown, make sure to see my post about How Most NHL Goals are Scored.

Final Thoughts

Now that we've uncovered the complete list of shots you can take in a game, I suggest for you to circle back to the wrist and snap shots.

These two shot types are clearly the most effective ways to increase your scoring opportunities and goal count.

In order to improve your scoring chances even further, you need to have a quick release, a strong shot and great aim.

This will come down to how much you practice your shot.

Goalies are trained to position themselves so that they cover most of the net.

But they are vulnerable to screen shots, one-timers and plays where they have to shift their stance.

If you see that goals are hard to come by in your league, you'll need to work on these deceptive shots and quick passing plays so that goalies cannot telegraph your every move.