EDMONTON, AB - With so many boxes to check both on and off the ice during the summer months, faceoff practice doesn't tend to be high on the list.
The biggest improvements for centres in the battle at the dot, often a feel-out process between the two centres learning how each other will approach it, come through repetition and real in-game matchups.
"It's hard to work on faceoffs in the summer," Oilers captain Connor McDavid said Monday afternoon. "Guys aren't really wanting to sit there and drop pucks and go head-to-head all summer long, so it's kind of just experience, getting stronger, and taking the reps."
Next to his 11 points (4G, 7A) and 1.8 points-per-game ratio in six games, along with his role as captain and an offensive leader for the Oilers, McDavid has made improvements in the circle so far this 2018-19 NHL season, winning 51.4 percent of draws - a season-by-season improvement from last campaign by 10 percentage points.
Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 10.22.18
Over his career in four NHL seasons, McDavid has averaged 44.3 percent in the circle while as a team the Oilers are operating at a success rate of 48.6 percent. So far this season, the Oilers centres have made marginal gains as a unit winning 50 percent of all draws.
The referees, McDavid believes, have had a hand in the improvements he's made by making the puck drop fair across the board in the NHL. Gone are the days where players can get the jump on a faceoff before being tossed for another player to take the draw.
"I don't think there's any cheating anymore because the refs call it so tight now, and that's good," McDavid added. "You want the faceoffs to be fair and one guy to have an advantage over everyone else, so they call it tight."