How does a hockey player find the perfect stick?


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EDMONTON, Alberta — Anthony Beauvillier bought into the premise easily.

“Oh man, it’s something we talk about every day in this room,” Beauvillier told The Post. “Just talk about sticks, talk about different curves we can use, different flex or whatnot. It’s just, sometimes it’s nice just to mess around with different stuff.”

A hockey player’s stick is central to everything they do on the ice. It’s also a personal piece of equipment. Everything from the curve of the blade to the flex of the shaft to the weight to the length can be toyed with, and every player has a personal preference.

Most are married to it.

“Obviously you have stuff that you like,” Noah Dobson said. “I’ve been kinda using the same build, same curve and stuff like that since my second year of junior [hockey]. Some guys like to play around with it a lot, some guys like to keep it the same, and I’m a guy that likes to keep it the same.”

So is Beauvillier, who also cited junior hockey as the time he found the right mix of stick traits that worked for him. Brock Nelson, though, is in a bit of a different category.

“I like to sample,” Nelson told The Post. “Over the years, I’ve used pretty similar curves. … I’ve switched to a little bit bigger one now. Stuck with the same kind of flex. I haven’t really changed too much. Sticks have gotten a little bit lighter, I know my sticks have gotten shorter over the years as well. Haven’t messed too much with the blade or anything like that.”

Anthony Beauvillier settled on the kind of stick he wanted when he was playing junior hockey, though he and his Islanders teammates still talk obsessively about what traits they like.
Getty Images

The process plays out over the summer. Changing sticks during the season is usually ill-advised — it’s not something that you mess with just because of a few bad games. When he’s working out during the offseason, Nelson will test out a handful of stick options to see if anything fits his liking. Sometimes he’ll make a switch. Other times not.

“I stuck with the same stick two, three years, and then I went through four or five or six samples, but I always went back to the same stick I had,” he said. “It would take something fairly significant to where it felt pretty good to switch.”

This past offseason, though, he did make a minor change, going to a lighter model — albeit with the same specifications otherwise. What makes it work?

“It’s just player preference,” Nelson said. “You see guys, like when we had [Jordan Eberle], he had the straightest blade you could think of. Then you think of the way he was able to play on his backhand, whether that was personal preference or if that was an added benefit, who knows?”

Beauvillier said, “Honestly, it’s more about the feel of it … the weight of it. Just the feel in general of it. When you shoot, how does it feel when you shoot?”

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) shoots in warm up before a game between the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders on December 13, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Brock Nelson has tinkered with the stick he uses over the course of his 10-year career, from different blade curves to varying lengths.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The way the puck comes off when shooting tends to be the biggest determining factor, Nelson said, though perhaps he’s biased by being a goalscorer.

“Then I think it goes to feel and handling,” he said. “There’s some sticks I’ve tried where it doesn’t feel like you have good feel in the bottom third of the stick. You want to find something with a good balance on it where you can handle.”

In the end, though, this is the ultimate matter of preference. For all the conversations the Islanders might have about sticks in the dressing room, what works for one player might not for another.

“As a player, as a feel, you just know when things are right,” Dobson said. “When you’ve been doing it for a long enough time, you know when things are wrong.”

Why isn’t Räty playing more?

New York Islanders forward Aatu Raty (16) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Aatu Räty lets out a yell after scoring in Tuesday’s win over the Canucks.

Aatu Räty was stapled to the bench for most of Tuesday’s road win over the Canucks, totaling just 6:15 of ice time. Most curiously, he played just 1:35 in the second period despite scoring to tie the game at 2:26 of the frame.

Islanders coach Lane Lambert didn’t have a very satisfying response about why Räty was so limited, lauding Räty’s intelligence and ability to play both sides of the puck while incorrectly saying he had more ice time in the second period than the first. In five games, Räty has averaged 8:35 while scoring twice. It seems as though the 20-year-old still has some work to do in earning the trust of the coaching staff, which is a perfectly reasonable place for a 20-year-old call-up to be.

“He’s growing, he’s learning every day,” Lambert said. “The nice thing about him is he’s really in tune with what’s going on. He works hard. He works hard off the ice, he works hard with the video. He’s gonna be good.”

Passing on Jakub Vrana

Detroit Red Wings left wing Jakub Vrana (15) warms up prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils on October 15, 2022.
Talented but troubled Red Wings winger Jakub Vrana cleared waivers this week.
NHLI via Getty Images

It had to have been tempting for the Islanders to take a flier on Jakub Vrana, who cleared waivers Wednesday after the Red Wings shockingly exposed him a day earlier. The best version of Vrana is exactly the kind of player the Islanders need on their roster — a scoring winger with a lethal shot who might work well next to Mathew Barzal. Vrana also played under Lambert, who was an assistant coach with the Capitals at the same time he was there.

What version of Vrana the Islanders might have gotten, though, is entirely unclear. Vrana played just two games this season before entering the player assistance program. He also underwent shoulder surgery last year. He’s currently on a conditioning stint with AHL Grand Rapids, and the Red Wings’ decision to expose him may mean that he has a long way to go before being NHL-ready.

At a $5.25 million cap hit, the Islanders would have needed to do some maneuvering to fit Vrana at this moment, though they will be able to do so if he is available at the trade deadline. That may still have been a worthwhile flier, if he did not have another year of his contract remaining.

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