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In Year 6, Adam Lowry has become a polished pro.
His coach, Paul Maurice, can identify no glaring holes in in the 25-year-old’s game. His Winnipeg linemates — Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp — are clearly enjoying themselves as they ride shotgun on the 6-5, 210-pounder’s flanks.
Lowry’s evolution into one of the NHL’s premier shutdown centres has a lot to do with practice, repetition and time.
The physical tools were there the day the Jets selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft. Seven years later, the seasoned vet and his linemates take many of the toughest defensive assignments their coach can throw at them.
Take his recent dominance in the faceoff circle. Entering Monday’s action, Lowry’s 84-for-144 mark (58.3 per cent) was fifth-best in the league among those who had taken at least 140 draws.
His most dominant games so far this season have included a 12-for-19 outing in a win over the Carolina Hurricanes, 14-for-18 (win vs. Los Angeles), 17-for-24 (win vs. Vancouver) and 12-for-19 (win vs. Arizona).
Lowry is invariably sent over the boards in crucial defensive-zone faceoff situations.
“He spends an awful lot of time with (assistant coach) Todd Woodcroft watching video and centremen,” Maurice said Monday morning as the Jets prepared to host the St. Louis Blues. “And he’s worked really hard at it but I think his progression actually has been normal to get to the level beyond good; that 50 (per cent) range takes years.”
His linemates have noticed, too.
“He’s done a great job in the faceoff circle,” said Tanev. “He’s given us the opportunity to win some draws and get into positions we want to be in and get right to our game. It’s been a big testament to the summer he had, and so far this year he’s been unbelievable.”
Lowry’s off-season workouts at home in Alberta often ended the same way. Extra faceoff work against fellow Calgarians such as Brayden Point and Jay Beagle, both expert draw men, were common.
“If you have an general idea of what a guy’s going to do, you kinda go in with a bit of an edge” said Lowry. “I’m sure every team’s studying their faceoff guys and I’m sure they’re looking at our tendencies, but if you know what he’s going to do against guys similar to your style, you can be proactive and combat that.”
Lowry was a late comer to the position, shifting to centre from the wing during his 19-year-old season in the Western Hockey League.
“You look at a lot of guys that were top faceoff guys later in their careers, usually their first few years they’re not dominant faceoff guys,” said Lowry. “It takes them some time to get used to taking them against different guys, different things you need to do against different skill sets. You build your relationships with linesmen, you know what to expect from them, and you can go from there.
“Todd Woodcroft has done a remarkable job. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure we’re prepared, making sure we know what to expect from the guys we’re facing.”
Maurice believes Lowry, Tanev and Copp can do some of the unexpected, too, playing a style you don’t see as much anymore in the modern NHL. They can score (Lowry’s four goals were tied for the team lead heading into Monday’s game), defend and grind with the best of them.
“We’re seeing that line plays slightly more of a throwback game, a simpler game, a more physical game,” said Maurice. “Scoring goals — Lowry out of the corner, Copp out front — those guys having success with that kind of a game where we’re not seeing as many completed seam passes in the offensive zone. (It’s) more of a man-to-man grind.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.