It's probably one of the questions I get asked the most as a coach.
"How do I get more ice time?"
While obviously there are a multitude of items that play into these decisions, there are a few general pieces of advice that can help any player looking for more ice time to get there.
The first part that I like to talk about with players are the intangibles. What type of teammate are you? Are you supportive, hard working, and positive? Or, are you the guy that is complaining, lazy, and giving off the vibe of being uninterested?
It's amazing how much something so simple, such as your attitude, can help when it comes to earning more ice time.
When coaches see a player who's being a great teammate, working hard in all the right areas, and genuinely wants to be there for his teammates, it's easier as a coach to give more opportunities to those players. I have found that nearly all coaches can deal with mistakes on the ice when the intent from the player is in the right place and not in question.
As I have talked about before, the beauty of intangibles is that they are 100% in the control of the player. Every player can control how hard they work, what kind of teammate they are, and how much they care.
The next piece of advice I give to players looking for more ice time is to really work to become better defensively.
If you are a strong defensive player then you will earn a coaches trust. Trust from your coach equals more playing time.
I talk specifically about becoming a strong defensive player because a lot of the factors that play into being strong defensively are in your control. Whereas, they're not so much in your control offensively. I think that should make sense. Even Crosby and McDavid, who everyone would consider the best offensive players in the world, can't completely score on demand.
But, defensively there are a lot more things you can control. You can control understanding the system that your team is using, being in the right spot, having an active stick, taking the body, being hard on the puck, taking hits to make plays, blocking shots... The bulk of the items just described come down to work ethic and commitment to doing your job.
I tell my players a lot that being good defensively is merely making the conscious decision to outwork the opponent and being willing to do the dirty work. In other words, it doesn't take a lot of talent to be good defensively.
To further back this up there's players who have made entire careers out of being good in the defensive zone and being really good at making simple plays. The one that gets mentioned the most was a former NHL defensemen Hal Gil. He played 16 years in the NHL and he was simply really good at getting the puck out of the zone and using his size to be effective in the D-Zone. In fact, he never had more than 6 goals in one season as a pro. If it worked for a guy who played over a 1,100 games in the NHL, then it's good enough for you too.
So while it may be frustrating to not be getting the minutes that you think you deserve, there are always things you can be doing to (hopefully) earn more. Have a great attitude, be a great teammate, and focus on the little details of the game that you can control.
The last point that needs to be thrown in there, as well, is consistency. While everything that was discussed above is important, it only matters if you can do it on a consistent basis. Often consistency is one of the real deciding factors for who gets more ice time than others. It doesn't necessarily mean that the players who get more ice time don't make mistakes (because everyone makes mistakes). But rather, coaches love players who are consistent night after night and shift after shift. If a coach knows what you bring to the table every night, and it includes some of the things mentioned above, then the chance of you getting more ice time is only going to increase.
Keep working to get better everyday and focusing on the things that are in your control.