Ranking the NHL's Top Faceoff Players in 2015-16

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistNovember 16, 2015

Ranking the NHL's Top Faceoff Players in 2015-16

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The importance of winning a faceoff is obvious to anyone who watches the game of hockey. Lots of offense occurs from a positive result in the offensive zone, and a team struggling after an icing call can calm the waters by winning the faceoff and getting the puck under control.

    A single faceoff doesn't have enormous value, but being able to win a large percentage of them—especially on special teams and in the defensive zone—contributes greatly to structure and possession.

    Here are the 10 best faceoff men in the NHL this season.

    Note: Players are ranked by faceoff percentage. Only centers who have contested 300 or more faceoffs qualify.

10. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild is getting lots of work in the faceoff circle. His 52.6 percent faceoff percentage makes him both a workhorse and one of the best in the business at the discipline. 

    How Is He Deployed? Koivu is slightly more likely to take an offensive faceoff than a defensive one, but the difference is minor.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? He has a 54.1 career faceoff percentage so is slightly below average this year. His presence in the Minnesota lineup gives the Wild a complete center, with faceoffs another positive on his resume.

9. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Sidney Crosby owns a 52.8 faceoff percentage and ranks No. 9 among those players to have contested over 300 faceoffs this season. 

    How Is He Deployed? Crosby's faceoffs come in all three areas of the ice, and he has plenty of help from the Penguins' Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Crosby's career number matches his number this season, 52.8. It's one area Crosby has always had the edge over his impact teammate Evgeni Malkin, who has never cracked the 50 percent mark.

8. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Veteran Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin has posted a 53.2 percent faceoff percentage so far this season. That total ranks him No. 8 among qualifying players. 

    How Is He Deployed? Sedin has enjoyed a lot of success over the years, and there were seasons when offensive-zone faceoffs were more plentiful. This year, the Canucks are using him in a more traditional role, and he's seen in all three quadrants.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Sedin's career number is 49.4 percent, and he's been below 50 per cent several times over the years. If he can hold onto his current total, it would represent his career high in the NHL.

7. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings is at 54.3 percent in the faceoff dot this year. 

    How Is He Deployed? The Kings seem to run Kopitar straight up in terms of zone usage. Fellow veteran Jeff Carter is struggling this year, but young Nick Shore appears to be a real find in this area.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Kopitar has a career average of 51.5 percent and has been trending well for years. The Kings can count on him to deliver in this and many other areas. 

6. Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils is an important player in several areas. His 54.5 percent total ranks him No. 6 among qualifying centers. 

    How Is He Deployed? Zajac's faceoffs are equally divided among the three zones, although he takes a few more in the offensive zone.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? His career average is 53.9, so Zajac's number this term is right in line with expectations. He is significantly better at the discipline than the other Devils centers.

5. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    What Do the Numbers Say? Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins is a brilliant two-way center. Part of that resume includes faceoffs, and his 55.7 rate ranks him No. 5 among centers with 300 or more events this season.

    How Is He Deployed? The Bruins use Bergeron in all three areas of the ice, although he does have 152 defensive-zone faceoffs this season.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Bergeron has been one of the best in the business for a long time, as represented by his 58.4 career percentage. This season's number is a little lower than normal, but his career high for a normal-length campaign, 60.6 percent, came last season.

4. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    What Do the Numbers Say? Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks ranks No. 4 among centers with 300 or more faceoffs this season. His 56.6 percent success rate is one major reason Anaheim acquired the veteran ahead of last season. 

    How Is He Deployed? Most of Kesler's faceoffs occur in the defensive zone, meaning Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is giving a key assignment to him. Kesler's defensive-zone number—61 percent—is exceptional. 

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Kesler's career average is 54.9 percent, meaning he is performing at above established levels this term but still in the range of expectation. He's an excellent faceoff man, and that skill is valuable to the Ducks.

3. Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    What Do the Numbers Say? Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres ranks No. 3 overall in faceoff percentage among regular centers. His 58.9 percent success rate has been a substantial help to the Sabres this season.

    How Is He Deployed? O'Reilly is used heavily in all three zones and is taking an exorbitant number of Buffalo's draws. He has taken almost twice as many faceoffs as No. 2 man Jack Eichel this season. 

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? His career faceoff percentage is 52.3, meaning this year's total towers over his previous career high of 53.4 percent. It's probably not sustainable, although playing in a new conference may explain part of his advantage—the book on O'Reilly may not be as well known with Eastern Conference teams.

2. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    What Do the Numbers Say? Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers leads the league in faceoff wins and is among the leaders in percentage of wins. 

    How Is He Deployed? Giroux is somewhat unique in that he is an impact offensive player who also takes a lot of defensive faceoffs—probably a reflection of the current Flyers roster.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? The Flyers' best player boasts a 59 percent faceoff percentage, significantly higher than his career number of 53 percent. He has been trending up for the last two seasons, so this could be a legitimate increase in ability.

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    What Do the Numbers Say? The Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews has won 61.4 percent of his faceoffs this season. That is the leading percentage among regular faceoff men in the NHL.

    How Is He Deployed? Toews takes a lot of faceoffs in all three areas—offensive, defensive and the neutral zone—and is over 60 percent in the offensive and neutral zones.

    Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Toews owns a career 57 percent faceoff winning percentage, making him one of the best of his generation at the discipline. It is one factor that contributes to his enormous value to the Blackhawks.

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