The NHL started keeping track of faceoff statistics in 1997-98 and it’s often an underrated stat. We’ve seen faceoffs with just two seconds left in games result in goals and we’ve also seen clean center ice draws lead to markers just five seconds into a game, four seconds into a period, or six seconds into overtime. Faceoff wins mean your team has possession of the puck and that leads to scoring opportunities in the offensive zone and a chance to clear in the defensive zone. Good power play and penalty-killing units all depend on top faceoff men.
Also, a clean faceoff goal in overtime can be much like a knockout punch in boxing as it can end a contest in a split second. This list features the 12 best faceoff men in the NHL since 1997-98. To avoid flash-in-the-pan centers making the top 12 after just one good season, each player on the list must have taken at least 5,000 faceoffs in their NHL career. Therefore, we have the most consistent faceoff specialists in the league deservedly making the list.
12. Kris Draper
Kris Draper was known as one of the Detroit Red Wings’ workmanlike players as he quietly went about his job without much fanfare. He was a fine faceoff man with a winning percentage of 56.7 during his career. He broke in full time with the Wings in 1995-96 just before the NHL started keeping faceoff stats after starting his career in Winnipeg. He ended up with 364 points in 1,157 regular-season outings and won a pair of Stanley Cup rings in Motown. Draper’s top season in the circle was in 2008-09 when he won 60.3 percent of his draws. He was a standout in the 2007-08 playoffs as well, as he went 64.6 percent in 22 games to help the Wings capture the cup.
11. Eric Lindros
The ‘Big E’ Eric Lindros was well known for his rough and tough style of play as well as for putting the puck in the net with 865 points in 760 games, but he was also pretty good on the draw. Lindros won 56.8 percent of his recorded faceoffs on 7,872 draws. He was sometimes used on the wing while playing with Philadelphia, the Rangers, Toronto, and Dallas, but was more comfortable and effective down the middle. Well, as long as he kept his head up when Scott Stevens was on the ice, that is. Lindros hit 60.1 and 60 percent in the circle from 1997 to 1999 when he was one of the best on the draw. The Hall of Famer also hit 63.3 percent in the 1997-98 postseason, but the Flyers lasted just five games before bowing out.
10. Tim Taylor
Another hardworking and under appreciated center was Tim Taylor who enjoyed stints with Detroit, Boston, the Rangers, and Tampa. Taylor took 7,380 recorded draws in his 13-year career and won 56.9 percent of them. He wasn’t a big scorer with just 73 goals and 94 assists in 746 regular-season season contests, but he did play on two Stanley Cup winners with Detroit in 1996-97 and Tampa Bay in 2003-04. He also earned votes for the Selke and Lady Byng Trophies for his clean, defensive style of play. Taylor went 59.6 percent in the faceoff circle the year Tampa won the cup for his best season between the dots. He also won 55.5 percent of his draws during the 23-game postseason that year.
9. Jonathan Toews
One of the best faceoff men in the current era is 29-year-old Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. He broke into the league in 2007-08, so faceoff stats have been kept during his entire career. Toews had racked up 665 points in his first 783 regular-season outings so it’s obvious he’s not just a faceoff or defensive specialist. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner and has also taken home the Frank Selke and Conn Smythe Awards. Toews has gone 56.9 percent in the faceoff circle, with his best year being 2012-13 when he hit 59.9 percent. He hasn’t lost his touch either as he’s currently at 57.6 percent this season. His best postseason was 60.2 percent in 22 games in 2009-10 to help the Blackhawks win the cup and he’s at 56.8 percent for his playoff career.
8. Patrice Bergeron
Another top gun in the circle today is the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron. Like a few others on this list, Bergeron combines offensive talent with faceoff and defensive prowess and is a complete 200-foot player. He broke into the league as a teenager in 2003-04 and his current faceoff percentage stands at 57.1. This includes 60.6 percent in 2014-15 and 60.1 percent last season. It’s hard to believe the 32-year-old is playing his 14th NHL season and he’s produced offensively with 725 points in his first 954 outings. He’s never been under 50 percent in the circle in his career. Bergeron helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2010-11 by going 60.5 percent on the draws in 23 playoff contests and actually lifts his game in the postseason by winning 58.7 percent of his draws. Bergeron’s 18,852 faceoffs rank third all-time since records have been kept, as do his 10,769 wins.
7. Steve Yzerman
The second Hall of Famer on the list is former Detroit Red Wings captain and legend Steve Yzerman. This guy broke into the league well before faceoff stats were something the league kept track of. But since they started, he was recorded as having won 57.4 percent of the 9,177 draws he took until retiring after the 2005-06 campaign. Yzerman’s play led to three Stanley Cup rings along with a Masterton, Pearson, Selke and Smythe Trophy. And let’s not forget he’s one of the top scorers in NHL history with 692 goals and 1,063 assists for 1,755 points in 1,514 regular-season games. Yzerman saw the ice in all situations, as he was simply the top scorer and faceoff man on his team. His top season was 59.6 percent in 2000-01, but he was even better in the playoffs as he won over 60 percent of his draws, peaking at 64.3 in 2003-04.
6. Mike Sillinger
Journeyman Mike Sillinger bounced around to 12 different teams during his NHL career, as everybody was interested in his faceoff capabilities. He wasn’t too bad with the puck either, as he scored 240 goals and 308 assists in 1,049 regular-season season games with Detroit, the Islanders, Vancouver, Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa, Nashville, Ottawa, and Phoenix. He played his first NHL game at the age of 19 in 1990-91 and his last game at the age of 37 in 2008-09. In between, he won 57.6 percent of his 12,288 recorded faceoffs. He peaked in 2000-01 with Ottawa at 63.3 percent and enjoyed two other seasons of over 61 percent. Sillinger also reached the 69 percent plateau twice in the playoffs, but his teams were ousted in five games on each occasion.
5. Adam Oates
We’re back to another Hall of Famer now with Adam Oates. This was a guy who had great hands and was a tremendous playmaker and a pretty good goalscorer. Who can forget the duo of Hull and Oates? He won 57.6 percent of his 11,256 recorded draws before hanging up his skates after the 2003-04 season. Oates never won a Stanley Cup, but racked up 341 goals and 1,079 assists for 1,420 points in 1,337 regular-season games with Boston, Washington, Detroit, St. Louis, Anaheim, Edmonton, and Philadelphia. His best year on the dots was 1998-99 when he won 59.3 percent of his draws. Oates was another who picked it up in the postseason by winning 60 percent of his faceoffs including 60.1 percent in 21 games for Anaheim in 2002-03.
4. Scott Nichol
Scott Nichol was a very dependable faceoff man from 2001 to 2013 with Nashville, Buffalo, Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis, and Chicago. He was definitely a specialist since he racked up just 127 points in his 662 regular-season games. Nichol was certainly the right man to handle the draws on his teams, as he responded by winning 58.0 percent of the 5,954 faceoffs he took. Nichol was picked in the 11th round of the NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo in 1993 and was the 272nd player taken overall. His lowest faceoff percentage was 53.1 in his rookie season and he reached 60.6 percent in 2009-10 with San Jose and again with St. Louis three seasons later. Nichol also reached 56 percent in 49 career playoff games.
3. Rod Brind’Amour
He’s not yet in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Rod Brind’Amour may soon find himself inducted. He contributed 452 goals and 732 assists for 1,184 points for Carolina, Philadelphia, and St. Louis and won a Stanley Cup in 2005-06 with the Hurricans. He’s also a two-time Selke Trophy winner. Brind’Amour broke into the league in 1989-90 and retired after the 2009-10 campaign. In the meantime he took a recorded 18,774 faceoffs and won 11,027 of them for a winning percentage of 58.7. Brind’Amour is ranked number four all-time in faceoffs taken and second overall in wins behind Joe Thornton. And they didn’t even keep records for the first eight seasons he was in the league. He broke the 60 percent mark on four occasions and was just as good in the playoffs.
2. Joe Nieuwendyk
Much like the late Jean Beliveau, Joe Nieuwendyk was a big classy center and is a Hall of Famer. He’s also a three-time Stanley Cup winner, former Rookie of the Year, and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Nieuwendyk posted great offensive numbers with 564 goals and 562 assists in 1,257 regular-season contests and was also the second-best on faceoffs according to NHL stats. He won 59.3 percent of his 10,109 recorded draws after the 1997-98 season. Nieuwendyk was a key faceoff man for Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto, and Florida between 1986-87 and 2006-07. He peaked in the 1998-99 campaign when he won 63.3 percent of his draws with Dallas and reached 60.3 percent with Toronto on 2003-04. Nieuwendyk went 60 percent in the circle in the 1998-99 playoffs to help Dallas win the Stanley Cup and again the next season when they reached the final. He then posted a 56.8 winning percentage when the Devils won the cup in 2002-03.
1. Yanic Perreault
The best faceoff man the NHL has ever seen since the league began taking records was Yanic Perreault. He was excellent in the circle as he took 10,128 recorded draws and won 6,192 of them for a 61.1 winning percentage. Perreault was also an unheralded offensive player as he certainly chipped in with his fair share of points. He played 859 regular-season games with Toronto, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, Phoenix, and Chicago and contributed 247 goals and 269 assists for 516 points, with seven seasons of over 20 goals. His best campaign at the faceoff dot was in 2003-04 when he won 65.2 percent of his draws with the Habs and he was still going strong at 64.3 percent in his final NHL season in 2007-08 with Chicago. Perreault won over 61 percent of his faceoffs in 10 of the 12 seasons he played after 1997-98 with his lowest career percentage being 55.3. He was just as good in the postseason with a career mark of 61 percent.