Faceoffs have been a fringe category for fantasy leagues for a number of years, but they have been growing more prominent, especially with plus-minus ratings seeing less and less play. Getting the right centers adds another element to the draft table, as there are different types that poolies can target.
The Elite - The Best of The Best
Patrice Bergeron - BOS - Bergeron has topped the league in faceoff wins for the last four seasons and he has led all skaters in faceoffs taken for the past three campaigns. He won 1,089 of his 1,812 total puck drops in 2016-17 for a 60.1 winning percentage. Bergeron’s faceoff prowess and his ability to play against the top players on the opposition has helped him earn the Frank J. Selke Trophy, as the league’s top defensive forward, four times in his career, including last year. The Bruins center wasn’t as effective on the scoresheet in 2016-17 as he has been in the past, but he still managed to record 21 goals and 53 points in 79 contests. Bergeron should be able to bounce back in that area, while supplying big faceoff numbers.
Ryan O’Reilly - BUF - O’Reilly moved up to second in the NHL in faceoff wins last year after he finished third overall in 2015-16. He amassed 1,039 victories in the circles and posted a 58.0 winning percentage. The Buffalo pivot also led the league with 157 wins on the draw in shorthanded situations. O’Reilly has won 57.3 percent of his draws in two seasons with the Sabres. He will continue to be counted on for faceoffs while star center Jack Eichel hones his skills at the craft. O’Reilly is also capable of contributing 55-60 points, which adds to his value.
Claude Giroux - PHI - Giroux remains a prominent high-volume faceoff man, but he nearly slipped out of elite status. The Flyers captain posted meager totals of 14 goals and 58 points in 82 games last season, but he still enjoyed plenty of success in the circles. Giroux was fourth in the league with 1,748 total puck drops last year and he won 55.6 percent of the time. He also led the pack with 221 victories in power play situations.
The High-Volume Producers - These players are a notch below the league’s top faceoff men, but offer a good blend of points and strong winning percentages on a high volume of attempts
Ryan Kesler - ANA - Kesler falls just short of elite status going into the 2017-18 season because of the hip surgery he underwent after the playoffs. It may result in him missing the start of the year, which could reduce his faceoff statistics. However, he should be among the best when he is able to play. Kesler racked up 1,029 wins on 1,791 total draws last campaign. He was one of just three skaters to generate more than 1,000 victories in 2016-17. Kesler also finished behind only Bergeron in even strength faceoff wins with 731 and he ranked third in shorthanded wins with 139. The veteran middleman hit multiple categories last year with 22 goals, 58 points and 83 penalty minutes in 82 games.
Sidney Crosby - PIT - Crosby posted faceoff numbers normally associated with the “anvils” category, but he should be expected to get back above 50 percent this season. He has posted a 52.1 winning percentage in his career, but he fell to 48.2 percent in 2016-17. Still, Crosby amassed 842 faceoff wins, which ranked him ninth overall in the league and he took the fifth-most puck drops (1,748) in the NHL. Additionally, he registered 185 faceoff victories on the power play, which placed him second overall. Of course, the Penguins captain also led the league with 44 goals and he produced 89 points in 75 matches. Crosby still has plenty of value in leagues that count faceoffs and getting back over 50 percent shouldn’t be an issue.
Mikko Koivu - MIN - Koivu has been a consistent source of faceoff wins throughout his career and he has reached another level over his past three campaigns. He has surpassed 900 victories in the circles in each of those years and he hasn’t dipped below his career average of 54.5 percent for four straight seasons. Koivu won 938 of his 1,699 puck drops in 2016-17 for a 55.3 winning percentage. He also contributed 40 helpers and 58 points in 80 matches for the Wild.
Anze Kopitar - LAK - Kopitar did not have a strong season offensively, with only 12 goals and 40 assists in 76 games, but he still posted solid faceoff statistics. He won 52.7 percent of his 1,693 draws in 2016-17. If Kopitar bounces back offensively this year and wins around 53 percent of his draws, then he could get back into the elite category.
John Tavares - NYI - Tavares still managed to stay above 50 percent, but just barely with a 50.6 winning percentage. He won 54.1 percent in 2015-16 and 52.2 in 2014-15, which is closer to the range that you should anticipate from him this campaign. Tavares took 1,628 faceoffs last year and his 824 victories put him just outside of the top 10. He also notched 28 goals and 66 points in 77 games.
Honorable mentions: Nicklas Backstrom, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Vincent Trocheck, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Bryan Little, Jonathan Toews, Paul Stastny, Tyler Bozak, Nathan MacKinnon, Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter, Jason Spezza, Elias Lindholm, Henrik Zetterberg, Matt Duchene, Joe Pavelski, Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, Travis Zajac, Joe Thornton, Mika Zibanejad and Martin Hanzal.
The One-Category Risers - Each of these players represents a mediocre fantasy asset without their ability to win faceoffs
Antoine Vermette - ANA - Vermette registered a career high 62.3 winning percentage in 2016-17 on 1,195 total faceoffs. However, he didn’t much else from a fantasy perspective with nine goals, 28 points and a minus-7 rating in 72 games. Vermette owns a 56.7 percent success rate on faceoffs over his NHL career. He is capable of reaching the 30-point plateau, but his dominance in the circles is what he is known for now, especially since he is unlikely to move up Anaheim’s depth chart.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau - OTT - Pageau accounted for a mere 12 goals and 33 points in 82 contests last season, while winning 54.8 percent of his 1,018 puck drops. He had 19 markers and 43 points in 2015-16, but took on a checking role a year ago that will likely carry over into this season. It makes him a favorite of head coach Guy Boucher, but it probably won’t help his fantasy value. Still, if he gets an opportunity to move up the depth chart, then he could work his way out of this category.
Sean Couturier - PHI - Couturier hasn’t managed to break out offensively yet, but he did have his best performance on faceoffs last year. He posted a personal high 55.1 winning percentage on 1,066 total draws, which was well above his career mark of 48.9 percent. Unfortunately, Couturier has hovered under the 40-point mark for the last four seasons and in 2016-17 he produced 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists).
Jay Beagle - WAS - Beagle picked up an impressive 56.4 winning percentage on 1,107 faceoffs last campaign. He also ranked second in the league with 151 victories during shorthanded puck drops. Beagle enjoyed a career year offensively with 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 81 games in 2016-17. However, he won’t be on your fantasy radar for his ability to pick up points. Beagle has a 55.9 percent success rate on faceoffs over his career, but he has just 94 points in 392 appearances with the Capitals.
The Anvils - Each of these players is a valuable fantasy commodity, but their inability to succeed on faceoffs drags down their value in leagues that give credit to the category
Derek Stepan - ARI - Stepan has made some progress in the faceoff circle in his last two seasons, but he still hasn’t reached the 50 percent mark. He hit 47.0 percent in 2016-17, which was a career high for the former Rangers’ pivot. Stepan ranked 12th in the league in total faceoffs with 1,522. He should get the vast majority of the draws with Arizona this season, as the team’s top center and because the Coyotes will be working with some rookie centers this campaign.
Mark Scheifele - WPG - Scheifele’s offensive skills have elevated him to star status, but his work on faceoffs leaves a lot to be desired. He won only 43.5 percent of his 1,461 draws last season. That is nearly exactly in line with his career winning percentage of 43.4 through 306 games with the Jets. The good news for Scheifele is that faceoffs are a learned attribute and he has plenty of time to perfect the skill with practice.
Alexander Wennberg - CBJ - Wennberg took 1,285 faceoffs in 2016-17 and he emerged victorious 609 times for a 47.4 winning percentage. He has improved each year, so it’s possible he could make progress again this campaign. The Columbus center is 45 percent on the draw after 217 games in his career. If Wennberg hits 60 points and gets above the 50 percent mark then he could graduate into the “high-volume producers” category.
Auston Matthews - TOR - Matthews had an unbelievable rookie season, with 40 goals and 69 points in 82 games, but even he could not avoid the faceoff struggles that most young centers experience early in their NHL careers. The 2017 Calder Trophy winner posted a 46.8 winning percentage on 1,132 puck drops. Still, it is noteworthy and encouraging that he had a 53.0 percent success rate on the draw during power plays. Matthews has excellent potential as an all-around center and his faceoff work should improve this year.
Dishonorable mentions: Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Jack Eichel, Aleksander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Henrik Sedin, Artem Anisimov, Nazem Kadri, Mikael Backlund, Kevin Hayes