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December 5, 2003 - The NHL's top faceoff men
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No luck to the draw
The NHL's top faceoff men
By Robert Picarello | Impact! Magazine

For all those who believe winning faceoffs has more to do with the luck of the draw rather than skill, think again. Just check out the numbers from the 2002-03 season because the stats don't lie. Thirty NHL forwards who came to the dot last year for 900 faceoffs or more skated away winners over half the time.

While each player has the same result on his mind -- winning -- when he gets into the faceoff circle, they all have their own unique style, philosophy and skills when it comes to taking draws. Some forwards rely on quickness and strength in order to be among the best each season, while others count on their timing, confidence and teammates to come away with the possession of the puck.

Here are the Top 10 faceoff artists in the NHL who took 900 or more draws during the 2002-03 season.

Who's the toughest of them all?


Wayne Primeau, Tim Taylor and Vincent Damphousse are three NHLers who have been tough customers inside the faceoff circle throughout the years. Impact! recently sat down with the puck-winning wizards to find out just who they thought were the toughest forwards on the draw in the League today.

'For me personally, Joe Sakic is pretty amazing on faceoffs,' said Primeau, who won more than 50 percent of his draws for San Jose last year. 'When you watch Colorado games, and they're in their defensive zone, they usually pull one of their centermen and put (Sakic) on to take a faceoff so they can get the puck out of their zone.'

For Taylor it's Eric Lindros, the 6-foot-4 center of the New York Rangers.

'Lindros is one of the toughest guys for me to go against,' Taylor said. 'He can beat you in so many different ways. He can beat you on quickness, on strength. I've had times you know where he just pushes forward and the puck lies there and he pushes me down and a guy will come in behind him and their player will get the puck. He has so many different ways to win a faceoff. He's probably the hardest guy to go ahead and beat one-on-one as well. On faceoffs or on the ice he can beat you in a number of different ways because he's so highly skilled and so big and strong '

For Damphousse, Toronto's Joe Nieuwendyk and Montreal's Yanic Perreault give him fits

'I would say that the two guys that are consistently at the top are Nieuwendyk and Perreault. These two guys are extremely good and very tough to beat.

'The best players are very quick and very strong and they mostly have one power move and that's how they get successful. You look at Perreault, who's consistently one of the best, and Nieuwendyk they don't have too many moves. They just stick with the ones they're comfortable with and they're very good at it.'

No. 10, Kris Draper - The Red Wings' center won 56.9 percent of his faceoffs in 2002-03, succeeding on 603 of 1,059. Draper won 403 at even strength, 186 while his team was down a man and 14 while the Wings were on the power play.

No. 9, Craig Conroy - The Calgary forward won 57 percent of his draws last season, capturing 900 of the 1,579 total faceoffs he took for the Flames. Conroy bested his opponent on 604 even-strength draws, 203 power-play faceoffs and 93 shorthanders.

No. 7 (tie), Tim Taylor - Tampa Bay's Taylor finished the 2002-03 campaign with a 57.8 winning percentage. Taylor won 556 of his 961 total faceoffs for the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a number of key shorthanded draws

No. 7 (tie). Adam Oates - Oates, who recently joined the Oilers, won 615 of his 1,064 last year in Anaheim. Oates was triumphant on 487 even-strength faceoffs and won 112 on the power play. Oates played a huge role with his faceoff prowess in the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

No. 6, Todd Marchant - The former Oilers' center, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, won 58 percent of his faceoffs last year for Edmonton, taking 775 of his 1,336 total draws. Marchant won 545 at even-strength, 72 on the power play and 158 shorthanded in 77 games.

No. 5, Bobby Holik - The Rangers' center was very effective in the faceoff circle, enjoying a 58.2 percent success rate. Holik won 809 of his 1,390 faceoffs with 639 coming at even-strength. He also won 110 on the power play and 60 while his team was shorthanded.

No. 4, Dave Andreychuk - The ageless wonder was magical in the circle last season for Tampa Bay, winning 58.4 percent for the Lightning. Andreychuk schooled his opponent 387 times at even strength, 193 times on the power play and 72 times when Tampa was down an attacker. In all, Andreychuk won 652 of the 1,117 faceoffs he took in the 2002-03 season.

No. 3, Joe Nieuwendyk - The former Devil pivot, now with the Maple Leafs, won 809 of his 1,383 faceoffs, or 58.5 percent of the draws he took. Nieuwendyk won 639 of his 1,098 even-strength faceoffs, 142 of his 236 power-play faceoffs and 28 of his 49 shorthanded faceoffs. He was one of the main reasons the Devils were so tough to beat last season in both the regular season and playoffs.

No. 2, Chris Gratton - The Phoenix Coyotes center finished with a 58.6 percent rate last season. Gratton won 779 of his 1,330 total draws, 578 of his 1,009 even-strength faceoffs, 174 of the 275 he took on the power play and 27 of the 46 draws he took while his team was shorthanded.

No. 1, Yanic Perreault - Last season, the Habs' center led the NHL in winning faceoff percentage for the third-straight year. Perreault's success rate of 62.9 percent was the best of his career and the fifth-straight year that he finished above 60 percent. The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec won 727 of his 1,156 total faceoffs. In the 2002-03 season he won 600 of his 951 draws at even strength (63.1 percent), 121 of 195 on the power-play (62.1 percent) and six of 10 (60 percent) while his team was down a man.

Faceoff Notes -- Nobody won more NHL faceoffs last season than Toronto's Mats Sundin (995). Sundin finished the 2002-03 season tied for 14th in the NHL on faceoffs, winning 56.1 percent of his draws. The only others to win as many as 900 were Mike Modano of Dallas (929, 51.4 percent), Daymond Langkow of Phoenix (917, 46.5 percent) and Conroy (900, 57 percent).