Faceoffs – Where Size Matters?


Will Shawn Horcoff's Arms Stay Attached?
Will Shawn Horcoff's Arms Stay Attached?


Okay, as Oilers fans, there’s a few nagging questions as we start off this upcoming season. Not the least of which are the looming questions surrounding our ability to win faceoffs. Last season, it’s no secret that we were 25th in the league in faceoffs (with Kyle Brodziak). Further, it’s not a stretch to imagine what impact losing faceoffs had on both our penalty kill as well as our power play.

Without having to delve into much analysis, it’s abundantly clear that Shawn Horcoff is not only the best faceoff man on the Edmonton Oilers, but from the looks of it, the only faceoff man (except for perhaps Pouliot who is on IR).  It’s not surprising to note that he also just happens to be our tallest and heaviest centerman on the team.  As such, the question of how much do height and weight factor into winning faceoffs?  As for the seemingly elusive art of winning faceoffs, speaking from absolutely no personal experience, I would surmise that a number of factors would come into play including:  experience, technique, innate reflexes, cheats, and likely height as well as weight.  So far, Shawn Horcoff has seemingly been unable to teach some of our younger centers the art of winning the draw.  Perhaps, the lack of size down the Oilers middle might be partly to blame.  From Gagner, Comrie, Brule, O’Sullivan, to Coglinao–all of these players top out at 5’11” with weights ranging from around 180-190 lbs.

Here’s a list of our faceoff men last season by FO% and size:

  • Shawn Horcoff (53.9%) 6’1″ / 208lbs
  • Marc Pouliot (48.3%) 6’1″ / 195 lbs
  • Sam Gagner (42%) 5’11” / 191lbs
  • Patrick O’Sullivan (38.3%) 5’11 / 190lbs
  • Andrew Cogliano (37.2%) 5’10” / 184lbs

It’s interesting that it’s plain to see that when these players are stratified by FO%, they’re also listed from biggest to smallest…

Here’s a list of the NHL’s top 20 faceoff men ranked by the total number of faceoffs taken during last year’s regular season:


Players ranked by number of faceoffs taken last year.
Players ranked by number of faceoffs taken last year.


Looking at the impact of Height vs. Faceoff %, here’s the chart:


Player Height vs. Faceoff %
Player Height vs. Faceoff %


Okay, here’s the Player Weight vs. Faceoff %:


Player Weight vs. Faceoff %
Player Weight vs. Faceoff %


Okay, so I concede that the data used in these graphs is of a limited sample size (n=20).  After all, I had to manually input the data to an Excell file.  However, in both the graphs, the trend lines suggest that height and weight both contribute to faceoff %.  Further, there was a small correlation (0.26) between faceoff % and height along with a medium correlation for faceoff % and weight (0.38).

Bottom line: It’s pretty likely that the Oilers difficulties in the faceoff zone are largely a result of our lack of player size in terms of height and weight excluding Shawn Horcoff.  Of note, among the 20 NHL players who took the most draws last season, the average FO% was 52.1%.  Additionally, the average size of these players was 6’1″ and 205lbs.  Though our team is fairly young, the vets don’t offer much in terms of grit either.



9 thoughts on “Faceoffs – Where Size Matters?

  1. Yah size definitely doesn’t hurt with the faceoffs.

    The wingers have a huge part in tying up other forwards, or getting to the loose puck and things like that as well. So playing on a line with smaller guys who aren’t good battlers good hurt your faceoff % as well.

    But really, while having size definitely doesn’t hurt, but there are/were some small-ish guys that excel at it too (Adam Oates and Yanic Perreault come to mind). It’s all about the timing, and then those other things like size and linemates and such just increase your chance to be good at it. I believe it was Rod Brind’amour (possibly Oates) who said he would memorize each of the refs’ routine/pattern and would basically just time it.

    We won’t likely get too much chance to see Cogliano faceoff much this year, which is too bad because he’s been putting a lot of work in it and the only way he’ll ever get better is by doing it. But at the same time, he’ll likely be converted to the wing permanently, and that isn’t such a bad thing because he obviously can play well on the wing. Brule looks like he could be a guy who will pick up the slack on the draws.. maybe on the same pace of a guy like Pouliot. We’ll be better this year. Not superb.. but good enough, I’m thinking.

  2. Hey Racki,

    Yeah, you know me–when it comes to the Oilers, I am definitely a homer. Yet, this is an area of concern for me. I hope that we see improvement, but I remain somewhat skeptical at this point.

    I agree that the wingers can support the center and help to improve our stats in this area. We saw a reasonable example of this in the recent preseason game vs. the Bolts. To my recollection, Stone lost the draw, but he didn’t lose it cleanly which was good. However, our dman (it was 3 vs. 4 in OT), got tied up and wasn’t able to help to help.

    If the Oilers can manage to at least not lose draws cleanly and get some support from the wingers, things will look a lot better.

  3. Just want to point out that you have two players at 59% and 61% that don’t appear on any of your player profiles. Who are the two right data points for?

  4. Hey Racki, thanks for that. Yeah, I have to convert the Excell graph into a picture file to be able to post it on my blog unfortunately, so it makes it a little harder to read perhaps. The players are at 58% (Malhotra) and 61% (Brind’Amour) as Racki suggests. Sorry if the fonts might be a little small and difficult to read.

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