A stat was tossed around a few times earlier this week when forward Colton Sissons was recalled by the Nashville Predators from AHL Milwaukee. In his previous 19 games with the Preds during the 2015-16 season, the 22-year-old center had a 59 percent success rate in the face-off circle, best among all NHLers taking at least 100 draws.
There would seem to be some level of statistical handicap, with the rookie forward much closer to the minimum 100 draws than some of his competition, but still, 59 percent at the NHL level isn’t something to be simply dismissed. Plus, in his first two games since rejoining the Preds, Sissons has finished at 54 and 57 percent - good for second highest on the team both times.
“I was always considered a bit of a face-off guy in junior hockey, so I definitely started working on increasing my strength and skill in the face-off circle from when I was pretty young,” Sissons said Friday prior to a team workout. “I haven’t taken that many draws or gone up against the top guys in the League as much as other guys, but it definitely adds to my confidence, I think. It’s a challenge to be a good face-off guy and to have that percentage close to 60 percent, which is usually about first in the League, that’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Ryan Johansen says the first few years in the NHL are important for a centerman, as he faces the other aces in the League and starts to develop his style at the dot. To his credit, Sissons explained he’s been soaking in wisdom from a variety of sources over the past few seasons.
“Scott Nichol, our player development coach, he works with us a lot when he comes down to Milwaukee.” Sissons said. “He’s always in my ear to make sure I’m working on faceoffs, and always focusing on it. With Paul Gaustad, he runs our face-off meetings before every game up here, and he’s definitely a guy I rely on to bounce ideas off of.”
Technology has played a large role in pre-scouting the competition in recent seasons, especially for centers trying to pick up opponents’ tendencies in the circle.
“Before every game, we have all of the [opposition’s] centermen on the iPad, and we can watch all the draws they’ve been taking and how they’ve been losing and how they’ve been beating their opponents too,” said Sissons. “It helps a lot. We don’t have that luxury in Milwaukee, so I take advantage up here.”
College Game Excellent Preparation for Wilson, Vesey:
Since the NHL Trade Deadline last month, Predators General Manager David Poile has been clear about his intention to bring Harvard senior forward Jimmy Vesey straight into Nashville’s lineup. Said Poile:
“Whenever Harvard’s season is over, we look forward to signing Jimmy and bringing him on our team, and I think that’s going to be a great boost for our team at the perfect time of the season.”
A product of the college-to-NHL transition himself, Colin Wilson agrees Vesey should be uniquely positioned to immediately produce for the Preds.
“I think you get that bigger, faster, stronger game; I was on a team with 25 year olds and you don’t get that in juniors,” Wilson said of his time playing at Boston University, a member of Hockey East, from 2007 through 2009.
“I always valued an education, and I wanted to be a well-rounded human being, so I thought going the college route and having a balanced life would be great. It was a great game, and the college I chose was one that develops a lot of NHL players, so I was obviously looking at that aspect. I think it does a great job, and you do a lot of working out, getting bigger, faster and stronger.”
On the cusp of 200 career points (he’s at 199), Wilson says he’s thankful that milestone will be another one he’ll be able to celebrate with the Preds, the only organization he’s been a part of since being drafted seventh overall in 2008.
“The fact that I’ve been able to stay with one organization this far, with this being my seventh year, I think that’s kind of been the highlight,” Wilson said. “Lots of people have been traded, I think Pekka [Rinne], [Shea] Weber and me are the only ones left from when I started, so that has to be my highlight. I love Nashville, I love the city, I love the organization and everybody in it, and it’s been really special to remain with the organization I started with.”
Just a Hometown Boy:
Indulge Ryan Johansen if you see him pausing to take in the atmosphere around him during the two national anthems at Rogers Arena tomorrow - it’s his hometown privilege.
“Honestly, it feels like it’s the first time every time I come back here,” the North Vancouver native said. “It’s always so cool and just from being such a big hockey fan, a Canucks fan as a kid, it’s still pretty surreal walking into the building.
“I’m due for a big game here, so I’m hoping it’s this time around.”
The 23-year-old center will already be playing his second game in Vancouver as a member of the Predators, but he says any game played in one of North America’s most beautiful cities will always stand out for him.
“All my family and friends will be coming down, my parents will come down in a couple of hours, and we’ll go to dinner and chat, have a relaxing night and rest up for the big game tomorrow,” Johansen said.
NHL Goes Green:
The National Hockey League will hold its inaugural Green Week, beginning this Saturday and running through Friday, March 18. The League has been a supporter of water conservation for several seasons and the upcoming week will hold the same focus.
From a League memo:
“Since 2011, the League has partnered with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) to restore 1,000 gallons of water to critically dewatered rivers and wetlands for every goal scored throughout the season through the Gallons for Goals program. Since the program’s inception we have restored over 30 million gallons of water.
“The League has calculated the water footprint of each game to be 248,500 gallons. The NHL is balancing the water footprint of every Go Green Game with Bonneville Environmental Foundation. This means that each club’s Go Green Game is restoring 250,000 gallons of water to critically dewatered rivers and wetlands.”