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 when faceoffs are concerned adds another element to the draft table, as there are different types that poolies can target.
The Elite - The best of the best
Ryan O’Reilly - O’Reilly led the league with 1,274 faceoff wins and a career-best 60.0 winning percentage. He also topped the NHL in even-strength faceoff victories (954) and power-play faceoff wins (210). O’Reilly has won 55.1 percent of his draws over his career. He will no doubt be leaned on heavily by the St. Louis Blues for his faceoff prowess in 2018-19. O’Reilly reached the 60-point plateau twice for the offensively-challenged Sabres in three seasons and he hit the 20-goal mark in each of those campaigns. Look for him to be at least around those totals again with his new team, with the possibility for more.
Sidney Crosby - As expected, Crosby got back on track last year with 1,026 faceoff wins on 1,935 puck drops. His 53.0 winning percentage in 2017-18 was a considerable improvement on the personal low (48.2 percent) he posted last campaign. Crosby finished second in even-strength faceoff wins (808) and second in power-play faceoff victories (200). He has a 52.2 winning percentage on the draw over his career. Crosby also amassed 89 points (29 goals, 60 assists) in 82 games last year. He was one of just two players last season to win more than 1,000 puck drops. Crosby’s workload will remain high in 2018-19 and he will be among the top scorers in the league.
Anze Kopitar - Kopitar was third in total faceoffs (1,816) last year and third in wins with 983. His 54.1 winning percentage was the best of his career. Kopitar has a 52.1 career winning percentage on the draw. He bounced back in a big way last season. Kopitar went from generating a career low 0.68 points per game in 2016-17 to posting personal bests with 35 goals and 92 points. The 2017-18 Frank J. Selke Trophy winner also finished third in Hart Trophy voting. Kopitar will be a force all over the ice again this season.
Patrice Bergeron - Bergeron was limited to 64 games last season, but he was still among the elite when it comes to faceoffs. He registered a 58.0 winning percentage on 1,368 total draws. Bergeron has topped 60.0 winning percentages on faceoffs in three of the last six seasons and he hasn’t dipped below a 57.1 percent success rate during that time. The Bruins pivot has a 58.4 winning percentage for his career. Bergeron also notched 30 goals and 63 points in 2017-18. It’s scary to think that his numbers could improve this campaign if he stays healthier. Bergeron also stands a good chance to return to being the faceoff wins leader this year just like he was from the 2013-14 campaign through 2016-17 season.
The High-Volume Producers - These players come in below the league’s top faceoff men, but offer a good blend of points and strong winning percentages on a high volume of attempts
John Tavares - Tavares was fourth in the league in faceoffs taken (1,726) and fourth in wins (913) last season. He also ranked fourth overall in power-play draw victories with a total of 160. Tavares’ 52.9 winning percentage marks the third time in four years that he has been above his career winning percentage of 51.3. The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak during the offseason, but the acquisition of a workhorse with Tavares’ faceoff acumen will more than make up for that. He also recorded 37 goals and 84 points in 82 matches last year. His hometown return should yield great results in the faceoff circles as well as on the scoresheet.
Aleksander Barkov - Barkov compiled a career-high 908 faceoff wins last year to place fifth overall in the NHL. He was also fourth in even-strength victories (738). Barkov earned a personal-best 53.5 winning percentage after hovering below the 50.0 percent mark in each of his previous four seasons. He also produced 27 goals and 78 points in 79 matches, while finishing fourth in voting for the Selke Trophy. Barkov’s two-way ability made him a trusted forward and gave him an average ice time of 22:04 per game. Look for him to continue to soak up minutes, faceoff wins and points in 2018-19.
Vincent Trocheck - Trocheck also got plenty of faceoff work for the Panthers in 2017-18. He finished with 120 fewer puck drops than Barkov to place sixth overall in the league and posted 853 wins (seventh in the NHL). Trocheck also shined offensively with 31 goals and 75 points in 82 games. He has a 50.9 winning percentage on the draw over his career, but reached a career high in 2017-18 with a 54.1 success rate. Florida led the league last year with 5,236 total faceoffs and won 50.7 percent as a team, which put the club in the top 10 overall.
Tyler Seguin - Seguin had his best season in terms of faceoff success in 2017-18. He won 790 puck drops, eclipsing his previous best of 470 by a wide margin. Seguin’s 54.9 winning percentage fell short of the 55.6 percent success rate he had in 2015-16, but his increased workload makes his performance last year more impressive. Seguin received more responsibilities defensively in 2017-18 and tied for third in the league in shorthanded faceoff wins (114). He also collected 40 goals and 78 points in 82 matches.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Toews, Leon Draisaitl, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Johansen, Auston Matthews, Sean Couturier, Bryan Little, Matt Duchene, Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan, Nicklas Backstrom, Mark Scheifele, Eric Staal, Paul Stastny, Joe Pavelski, Jordan Staal, Mikko Koivu
The One-Category Risers - Each of these players represents a mediocre fantasy asset if not for their ability to win faceoffs
Jason Spezza - Spezza is normally in the high-volume producer category, but his offensive struggles last year dropped him down a peg. He posted a 55.8 winning percentage on 747 faceoffs, while supplying a mere eight goals and 26 points in 78 games. Spezza has been utilized on the wing by the Stars for parts of the last two years, but that could change in 2018-19 under new head coach Jim Montgomery. If he gets more faceoff work and bounces back offensively then he could move very quickly out of the one-category riser column.
Colton Sissons - Sissons hit new career offensive highs in 2017-18 with nine goals and 27 points in 81 games. He has shown in the past that he can contribute when he receives opportunities further up the depth chart, but he mostly resides on the waiver wire in the vast majority of fantasy leagues. Sissons has a career winning percentage on faceoffs of 53.6 and he was well above that mark last campaign at 55.3 percent.
Brandon Dubinsky - Dubinsky won 54.7 percent of his 952 puck drops last season. However, he only accounted for six goals and 16 points in 62 games. Dubinsky hopes that a full summer of training will help him get back on track after offseason wrist surgery limited him going into the 2017-18 campaign.
Jay Beagle - Beagle’s 58.5 winning percentage ranked him fifth overall among skaters with at least 100 faceoffs taken in 2017-18. He posted 584 wins on 998 total puck drops, while chipping in seven goals and 22 points. Beagle also led the way with 131 faceoff victories while shorthanded. He will take his skills on the draw to Vancouver in 2018-19, but he shouldn’t be counted on for much else.
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
Connor McDavid - McDavid has been an offensive force over the first three seasons of his NHL career, but he has continued to struggle on faceoffs. He owns a 42.0 winning percentage in his career and he checked in with a 41.4 percent success rate on 909 total puck drops in 2017-18. McDavid has surpassed the 100-point mark in each of the last two years. His lack of faceoff progress won’t concern the majority of fantasy owners, but it’s a skill he should learn over time.
Evgeny Kuznetsov - Kuznetsov generated 27 goals and 83 points in 79 matches last year, while winning just 44.2 percent of his 1,018 total faceoffs. He has a 45.1 percent success rate on the draw during his career. Kuznetsov spent most of last season alongside Alex Ovechkin and he has proven he is more than capable of being the top center on the Capitals.
Pierre-Luc Dubois - Dubois became Columbus’ top center during his rookie campaign. He notched 20 goals and 48 points in 82 games. However, Dubois posted a 43.8 winning percentage on 1,052 faceoffs. Most first-year players have trouble on the draw, so his lack of success isn’t a surprise. Look for him to make adjustments and improve in 2018-19.
Nathan MacKinnon - MacKinnon posted the worst faceoff winning percentage (41.9) of his career last season despite having a great year offensively. He accounted for personal bests with 39 goals and 97 points in 74 games. MacKinnon won 50.5 percent of his faceoffs in 2016-17, so a return to being a high-volume producer is possible in 2018-19. Colorado won a league-low 2,135 faceoffs last year.
Evgeni Malkin - Malkin had a 43.7 winning percentage on 1,052 total faceoffs last season. He didn’t have any trouble filling the stat sheet in other categories, though. Malkin tallied 42 goals, 56 assists and 87 penalty minutes in 2017-18. He has struggled on the draw throughout his impressive career with a 43.6 percent success rate in 784 contests.