Circle of Trust

Petteri Nokelainen's flair in the faceoff circle has made him a valuable acquisition for the Ducks, and he's already demonstrated that ability so far in Anaheim

Monday, 03.09.2009 / 7:44 PM / Features
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Circle of Trust
By Matt Vevoda
AnaheimDucks.com


Of the players Anaheim acquired before last week’s NHL trade deadline, Petteri Nokelainen may have flown most under the radar. It’s understandable since the 23-year-old has all of 15 points in 107 career games. But much like a former European center that has since departed the Ducks, Nokelainen’s value may lie more on the defensive aspects of the game and the faceoff circle, where he’s is already becoming one of the league’s best.

"That is a positive," Carlyle said of Nokelainen's faceoff success. "Starting with the puck gives you more of a chance. Maybe he's auditioning for a higher level if he can continue to do that."
In his first two games with the Ducks, Nokelainen has won an impressive 16-of-25 faceoffs (64 percent). For the season, the center is first in the league (among players with at least 100 faceoffs taken) with a win percentage of 63.6 percent. He was also Boston’s leader in that category in 2007-08 (152 wins in 288 faceoffs, 52.8 percent). It’s all not a bad starting point in trying to replace the presence of Samuel Pahlsson, who was Anaheim’s leader in that category (53.5 percent) prior to being dealt to Chicago at the trade deadline.
           
“That is a positive,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle of Nokelainen’s penchant for faceoff success. “Starting with the puck gives you more of a chance. Maybe he’s auditioning for a higher level if he can continue to do that.”

Just one month ago, Nokelainen was worried his time in hockey might be over after enduring a horrific injury. In a game between the Bruins and Sharks at TD Banknorth Garden on Feb. 10, he took a high stick from Dan Boyle to his right eye with 30 seconds left in the first period. It didn’t look good as Nokelainen skated off the ice holding his face from the blow.

“It was definitely the scariest thing of my life,” Nokelainen said. “You can’t see anything with your right eye, and the only thing you can see with your left eye is the blood in your hands. You think the worst, for sure. But after a couple days, the doctors were really hopeful.”

"I feel like I'm enjoying hockey more right now," Nokelainen said. "Here I can play on the penalty kill and get a bigger role in the team. I think this is a really good opportunity for my career."
Luckily, Nokelainen would make a full recovery, but that would turn out to be his last game in a Bruins uniform, as he was traded to Anaheim for Steve Montador in an early deal on the March 4 trade deadline day.

He left a Boston team that is tops in the league with 95 points to join the Ducks, who are in a dogfight with multiple teams for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. Yet Nokelainen says he is happier with his role now than he was during the first five months of the season in Beantown.

 “I feel like I’m enjoying hockey more right now,” said the former first round pick (16th overall) of the New York Islanders in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. “You feel like a big part of the team when you’re getting more ice time. In Boston, I was really limited. I didn’t play any special teams. Here I can play on the penalty kill and get a bigger role in the team. I think this is a really good opportunity for my career.”

Another bright side in coming to Anaheim for Nokelainen, an Imatra, Finland native, is the chance to play with his fellow countryman and boyhood idol Teemu Selanne. “He's a guy who, when I was 10 years old, I had his poster on the wall,” Nokelainen said. “It’s kind of weird when you come in and you see the guy right there.”

Though the Ducks have suffered two heartbreaking 3-2 home defeats (to Dallas and Minnesota) recently with all of their new players on the ice, the team continues to remain optimistic it can right the ship over the final 15 games. That includes Nokelainen, who has never wavered in his assessment of the Ducks since being brought to the team.

 “We still have a great team here,” Nokelainen said. “We should make the playoffs. I definitely think we have a good shot. Every game counts right now for this team. It’s more like a playoff atmosphere.”

"We still have a great team here. We should make the playoffs. I definitely think we have a good shot. Every game counts right now for this team. It's more like a playoff atmosphere." - Petteri Nokelainen
Having a strong two-way center with a knack for winning draws will certainly help the Ducks down the stretch. It was also aid the team in the future, as Nokelainen is signed through the 2009-10 season, unlike any of the players that were dealt away from Anaheim on the day of the trade deadline. 

“He’s working very hard,” Selanne said. “He is going to get better also when he gets used to linemates and teammates. All the new guys, including Nokelainen, they are going to be really good.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 31 56 28 87
C. Perry 81 43 39 32 82
N. Bonino 77 22 27 14 49
M. Perreault 69 18 25 13 43
A. Cogliano 82 21 21 13 42
C. Fowler 70 6 30 15 36
K. Palmieri 71 14 17 9 31
D. Winnik 76 6 24 6 30
H. Lindholm 78 6 24 29 30
S. Koivu 65 11 18 3 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 20 5 0 .923 2.29
J. Hiller 29 13 7 .911 2.48


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