Stick Flex For The Pros
If you like to play ice hockey, chances are you watch the pros for entertainment and inspiration. In between cheering for your favourite team, you’re also checking out the players’ form, technique, and equipment, right? In this game, your hockey stick is like your best friend, so you undoubtedly find yourself scoping out their sticks, as well.
Most professional hockey players use the mid-80s to low 100s flex hockey stick. A flex rating in this range offers the pros the right stiffness or flexibility for their position and personal preference.
Come beyond the ice with us as we look into some of the actual sticks professional ice hockey players use, as well as why precisely that flex matters.
Before we slide into all the details, let’s lay out what exactly flex means when it comes to a hockey stick. We also discuss this topic in much more detail in our article covering hockey stick flex and why it matters.
Flex is the stiffness of the stick’s shaft. Flex is classified in a numerical rating system, where the number is the amount of force needed to flex the stick one inch. The higher the numerical rating, the stiffer the shaft is. Therefore, an 85 flex stick requires 85 pounds of force to bend it one inch. It’s more rigid than a 75 flex stick, which only requires 75 pounds of force to bend it one inch.
Many experts suggest players start out with a flex that’s half their bodyweight. Depending on your skill level, personal preference, and position you play, that’ll impact your chosen stick flex.
Typically, bigger, stronger players or defenseman prefer stiffer sticks. Lots of forwards prefer a stick with more flex to it.
Flex ratings can vary from 20 for small children up to 110+ for experienced, heavyweight adults.
When selecting a great hockey stick, whether we’re talking about the pros, your kid who’s just starting, or an adult who plays, there are several important factors to consider. Coach Jeremy at New To Hockey says that there are lots of variables when it comes to sticks.
When selecting a stick, a hockey player will look at the make, model, and company that made it. Many players come to prefer a particular brand for its craftsmanship, performance, or based on qualities about the company that they respect. If there’s one thing the pros know, they don’t only look at the make, model, or flashy paint job. There’s much more to it.
Other important considerations in selecting a stick to use are the weight, height, and what the stick is made of. The size and weight need to align with the player using it, as performance can be negatively impacted by a stick that’s too heavy, light, tall, or short. Ask for the expertise of someone who knows you and the sticks well.
However, before choosing a stick, it might help to read our article discussing some benefits of using a shorter stick to get some potentially different stick selection perspectives.
Finally, there are finer details to evaluate about a stick, and that’s where flex comes to play. The individual needs to consider the grip, blade curve, lie, and kick points or flex profile in addition to flex. These aspects play a significant role in altering the performance of the stick.
Put it all together, and these factors make a big difference in the stick’s performance and the player’s experience with it. In combination with the player’s physical traits, skill level, the position they play, and how they use it, all these things make or break the hockey stick choice.
Selecting that perfect hockey stick means learning about all these specs and finding the right one that allows them to play the best game they can.
Knowing what you know about hockey stick traits, let’s get into what flex hockey stick the pros use. According to Discover Hockey, there’s a massive variety in flex when it comes to the pros. Some of that variance is directly correlated with which position they play.
Forwards tend to use a lower flex for the many snap or wrist shots they take. You can actually see the bend in the stick for a player who uses a low flex stick when they shoot. A defenseman who takes many slap shots usually prefers a stiffer flex to stand up to that roughness.
Interestingly, many professional ice hockey players start the season with a stiffer stick and gradually drop it down throughout the season, so they end with something ranked up to 20 lower than when they started.
For example, Discover Hockey points out that Danny Briere, former Center in the NHL, would regularly start the season with a stiffer stick in the 90 flex range and end the season somewhere in the 75 flex range. As one of the top performers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in NHL history, we can certainly take note and learn from what he did.
That said, regardless of their position, personal preference, or even if they change a sticks flex from game to game or throughout the season, we do see that most professional hockey players use a flex in the range of the mid-80s to low 100s.
We took a closer look at the sticks four top professionals hockey players use.
|Roman Josi, Nashville Predators||Defenseman||CCM Super Tacks AS2 Pro||105|
|Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers||Wing||CCM Jetspeed FT3 Pro or CCM Ribcor Reckoner||87|
|Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers||Center||CCM Super Tacks or Jet Speed FT2||85|
|Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers||Center||Bauer Nexus 2N Pro||107|
Roman Josi, a defenseman with the Nashville Predators, is one of the NHL’s top defensemen. He won the 2019-20 NHL James Norris Memorial Trophy. This award is given annually to a “defence player who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position throughout the season”.
He’s also set NHL career highs in assists at 49, goals at 16, and points at 65 in 69 games. He ranks second among NHL defensemen in each category. Josh scored a minimum of 53 points in five out of six seasons since the 2014-15 season. He currently ranks third among all NHL defensemen. In the 2020 postseason, he had four assists in four games.
According to NHL Network analyst Ken Daneyko, Roman Josi “Just eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. He wants to be the best he can be for his teammates and what makes him so impressive is he’s hard to track, hard to defend because he’s always in motion with that beautiful fluid skating stride”.
So what flex stick does a strong defenseman like Roman Josi use? He’s most often seen using a CCM Super Tacks AS2 Pro stick with a flex of 105. He says he uses a bit of a curve with a little more torque. It opens up at the end, so a lot of shots go up high. He says in today’s game, you need to shoot high to score.
Listen to him explain his stick choice here:
Artemi Panarin, Wing for the New York Rangers, came in as the top-rated wing for this year, according to the NHL. He made his NHL debut in 2015, and in the summer of 2019, signed on with the New York Rangers.
This season, the left-wing scored 32 goals and had 63 assists in 69 games. Panarin was first in even-strength points at 71 and also took the cake as first among forwards in rating at plus 36. He helped the Rangers earn a berth in qualifiers in his first season and scored at least one point in 54 games.
He’s scored 415 points in 391 games in five NHL seasons - that is, 148 goals and 267 assists. Panarin has never scored less than 74 points, or 27 goals, in a single season.
As for awards, Panarin won the Calder Memorial Trophy in the 2015-16 season. Then a Chicago Blackhawks winger, he earned it as “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition”.
This season, he qualified as a most outstanding NHL player finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, as voted by fellow NHL Players’ Association members. He was also named one of three finalists in the Hart Memorial Trophy competition as league MVP.
Quoted in the NHL’s 2020 article naming its list of top 20 wings, NHL Network analyst Stu Grimson says that Panarin “Really is an exceptional talent. The numbers tell you an important part of the story; it’s that chemistry that he has with linemate, center Ryan Strome, that just sets Artemi Panarin apart from the rest of the field, at least for this moment in time”.
Grimson describes how Panarin has an excellent knack for where to be in time and space. He also marvels at his ability to “Take a pass, cradle a pass and then get that pass off in stride that fools a lot of NHL goaltenders across both conferences”.
So what about his stick? What is Panarin using to lead him to all that success? Panarin is known to use a stick in the flex range of the mid-80s to low 90s. Analysts have also seen him switch sticks throughout the season, but his curve and flex seem to remain the same. His flex is typically in the 85 to 90 range.
Watch an analysis of Artemi Panarin’s gear by Sideline Swap Hockey here:
Connor McDavid, a 6 foot 1 inch center for the Edmonton Oilers, landed himself the number one spot on the NHL’s list of top centers this season. Since joining the league in 2015, he’s won several awards, including the Art Ross Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award for the most outstanding player in 2016-17 and 2017-18, in the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 2016-17.
The NHL says, “If it’s possible for a teenage phenom to exceed the hype, then that’s what McDavid did in his rookie NHL season with the Edmonton Oilers”. He’s been a well-respected and beloved professional hockey player since he started and has put out impressive statistics every year he’s played.
His first season, which was the year the 193-pound rookie turned 19, was shortened due to a fractured clavicle. However, even missing 37 games, he still had 48 points in 45 games. This talented pro is known for having extraordinary acceleration, crazy good speed, incredible vision on the ice, and a seemingly endless arsenal of moves.
In his first full NHL season in 2016-17, he led the league with 100 points, including 30 goals and 70 assists. He signed on for eight years with the Oilers in the summer of 2017. That 2017-18 season, he was a scoring champion in the NHL. He finished with 108 points, including 41 goals and 67 assists in those 82 games.
In the 2018-19 season, McDavid had an NHL career-high of 116 points, including 41 goals and 75 assists. His fourth season in 2019-20 saw him rack up 97 points, which was 34 goals and 63 assists. He finished second in the NHL. This performance landed him on the top of the NHL’s list of best centers. He has scored at least 100 points in each of the last three seasons.
“He’s on a nice run, four years in a row of piling up the points, atop this list again, and deserves to be there”, says NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson. “He is by a good margin, the best offensive player in the world”.
What flex stick does a pro of such high caliber and high points use? McDavid says the flex he uses is “pretty stiff, actually”. He uses an 85 flex that’s cut down a bit.
He explains his stick, curve, and flex in the YouTube video below. He says he’s a guy who doesn’t shoot a lot and likes to have the puck on his stick and perform stick handling. According to him, a stiffer stick helps with that.
McDavid also explains how he continually changes the height and makes little tweaks to his stick here and there. If it doesn’t work, he says he tries something else.
Watch the interview about his stick choice here:
And while it doesn’t necessarily have to do with what flex stick he uses, watch him in this commercial for the Jetspeed FT2 stick, which was designed using his shooting data. It’s sure to make you smile:
According to the NHL, Sean Couturier, Center on the Philadelphia Flyers, comes in among 2021-21’s top 20 centers and the top 50 players overall.
Couturier was the Frank J. Selke Trophy winner, honouring him as the best defensive forward in the NHL this past season. He led the NHL in winning percentage of face-offs at 59.6 percent. As far as points, last season, Couturier scored 59 points with 37 assists and 22 goals. He was plus-21 in 69 games in the regular season, which helped earn a playoff berth for Philadelphia.
In the NHL’s article naming the top 50 players of the 2020-21 season, Couturier comes in at 41. NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp says about him, “He does those little things. Those intangibles win cups, and that’s what [the Flyers] have in Sean Couturier”.
As for his stick, Couturier is known to use something in the low 100s, such as a 102 to 107.
- Helps win the puck battles along the boards and face-offs
- Produces more powerful shots with more transfer of energy
- Excellent for strong slap shots
- Stick of choice for defensemen
- Can be too hard to bend if you don’t have the strength, which prohibits the force needed for a slapshot
- Less touch, feel and control
- Fantastic for snapshots, where the quick release is more important than the strength
- “Whippy” feeling, so you can put a lot of load on the stick and make quick wrist shots
- Provides touch in s*ending and receiving passes
- Offers more control in handling the puck
- Helps get shots off quickly
- Brings a high level of precision
- Doesn’t allow for as much power in shots
- Less durable because it takes more stress and bends during gameplay
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions relating to hockey stick flex and the pros.
Indeed, there are pro hockey players who do use a flex that’s outside of that standard range. A few pros who use a flex notably lower than the 85-100 range are Phil Kessel, who uses a 65 flex, and Johnny Gaudreau, who uses a 55 flex. When watching them play, you can see how much bend they get out of their stick during shots.
Defenders almost universally use sticks with a higher flex. Zdeno Chara, who is a tall player at 6 foot 9 inches and 256 pounds (116.12 kg), uses a stick with a 150-160 flex. His is twice as stiff as many other pro players’ sticks.
Before you go off buying an expensive stick solely because it’s made by one of the brands the pros use, remember that the stick must be customized to your needs. A hockey stick choice is all about personal preference, skill level, height and weight stats. Try a few sticks of your buddy’s, ask for expertise at the store, and don’t be afraid to switch up your stick choice until you find the right one for you.
Also, to choose the best stick for yourself, be sure to read our article on which hockey stick you should get to better your game.
- Discover Hockey: By the Numbers - Flex That Stick
- ProStock Hockey: Who are the Top Hockey Stick Manufacturers?
- ProStock Hockey: How to Pick the Perfect Hockey Stick
- ProStock Hockey: What the Heck’s Flex?
- Hockey Review HQ: Hockey Stick Flex Guide - How to Choose Flex
- New to Hockey: Beginners Guide to Hockey Sticks
- Pure Hockey: Stick Flex Guide
- Sideline Swap: What Stick Does Artemi Panarin Use?