Toe- Drags can be a flashy way for players to beat defensemen 1 on 1. Yet, as players advance relying on the toe-drag can be a bad-habit waiting to happen. Young players need to understand the purpose of a toe-drag and then use the different variables available to them to beat both defenders and the goaltender.
Effect of the Toe- Drag
Essentially the toe-drag is a manipulation of the puck by using your stick only (not your arms or body). This manipulation creates different angles for which the puck can be shot from, and different directions from which the puck can be moved to. In addition, upon set- up, the defender of a toe drag will jump the puck or attack the body, giving away a portion of the ice. It is up to a good forward to know which way to maneuver himself to exploit it. Moreover, given that a defender will jump the puck, it creates less visibility for the puck to be tracked by the goaltender.
Puck Tracking & Uses as a Screen Shot
For best use of the toe- drag at higher levels, I try to train players to use the toe-drag shot as an additional arrow in their quiver. By dragging the puck 2-4 inches towards your body it'll set up the perfect defender screen on the goaltender. In addition, given that the puck is closer to your body, torque is maximized which if practiced can create a more powerful shot that is released in a split second of time.
Work on this skill stationary at first off-ice. Focus on the form, hand positioning, quick release and power... accuracy of the shot at first is not that important.
After you have acquired the basic skills, use an obstacle placed over cones on-ice or a chair/ bench. Begin to practice this skill skating into the zone and from 12-15' out from the net. Remember to practice good habits, and crash the net for rebounds after releasing the shot. Aim low at first for maximum power and to create a rebound. Low will eventually be the best placement for this shot, as it will be the most difficult spot for the goalie to track.
David Clarkson of the NJ Devils is one of the best in the business at this shot. Watch him work, and have fun with this new skill!