Top 10 Worst Faceoff Guys

Tom Collins

2020-05-18

Every once in a while, you'll read about a fantasy general manager punting a category in a league that counts several peripherals.

This is a nice way of saying that the GM will ignore that particular statistic when drafting and instead focus on everything else. Usually, the punted category is plus/minus, but I feel like faceoffs are generally ignored.

Most of the time, fantasy GMs only think about faceoffs when drafting a true faceoff stud (i.e.- Ryan O'Reilly or Jonathan Toews) or when drafting a centre that can also slot into a wing position.

Most leagues only focus on faceoff wins, but some include faceoff losses as a category. Even if your league does faceoff wins only, it's important to take note of those players who are consistently losing more draws than they win.

As a few players on this list will show, someone who routinely has trouble with the faceoffs could end up taking less of them each season. This would hurt your chances in that category. For some players, being awful at faceoffs could take away other opportunities, such as finding a home on the top-line power play. There are a few reasons why Jonathan Toews is on the top power-play unit in Chicago despite having only eight power-play points. One of those reasons has to be that he wins 64 per cent of the draws on the man advantage, so he winds up taking 74 per cent of all of Chicago's power-play draws.

A few criteria for the list. First, the player has to take plenty of faceoffs. It doesn't matter if a player is only winning 30 per cent of his draws if he only takes 50 a year. This also means that you'll see a lot of elite centres on this list as they are going to be on the ice more than others.

We're also going to be looking for players who have years of ineptitude at the dot. One bad year is not enough to make this list.

10. Mark Scheifele

Since Scheifele has been a full-time player in 2013-14, he's had one season with a faceoff winning percentage above 50 per cent, and that was when he hit 51.3 per cent in 2017-18. Since then, he hasn't been good. One thing going in his favour is that there is no one really to usurp him in the faceoff dot. This year, he took 1,289 faceoffs in 71 games, an average of about 18 per game. Broken down even further, with his winning percentage of 46.9 per cent, that's an average of only eight faceoff wins per game.

9. Jack Eichel

We all know that Buffalo struggles in almost every part of hockey, but maybe nowhere as much as in the faceoff circle. They had eight players take at least 100 faceoffs this season, and Curtis Lazar was the only player above 50 per cent (he was at 51.3 per cent when the season was suspended). If you remove Eichel and Lazar out of the equation, the other six players averaged a winning percentage of 44.3 per cent. This is a long way of saying that Eichel took 1,311 faceoffs (winning 614 — or 46.8 per cent – of them) because the Sabres have no other options. If Buffalo ever gets a player that can routinely win faceoffs, you will likely see Eichel's faceoff wins start to drop as he would be taking less draws.

8. Evgeni Malkin

Malkin's inefficiencies at the faceoff dot should be the stuff of legend, but he was strangely good this season. This year, he won 50.3 per cent of his draws, which was easily a career high (his previous best was 48.8 per cent) and the first time he's ever won more draws than he lost. His career faceoff percentage coming into this season was 43.8 per cent. Last year was considered a good year when he finished with 45.7 per cent, his highest mark since 2013-14. The only reasons that Scheifele, Eichel and Malkin aren't higher on this list is because they take so many faceoffs, so even a lower winning percentage isn't as pronounced.

7. Sebastian Aho

It's never a good sign when your number one centre is the fourth-best faceoff option down the middle. Yet, that's where we were with Aho at one point this season. He's only been taking faceoffs for two years, so we don't have as much data to work with as with other players. However, he won 48.6 per cent last year, and that dropped to 46 per cent this year. Jordan Staal is easily the best faceoff guy on Carolina. Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula were both better options before they were dealt to Florida at the trade deadline. Since going to Carolina, Vincent Trocheck averaged 18 faceoffs a game.

6. Ryan Strome

Strome would not have made this list a year ago, as he normally doesn't take enough faceoffs for it to have a significant impact on his fantasy value, but he's never won even 48 per cent of his faceoffs in a season. That has changed since he went to the Rangers, especially now that he's mostly playing on a line with Artemi Panarin. This season, Strome took 1,044 faceoffs (the first time he's even taken more than 770 faceoffs, although a good portion of that might be because Mika Zibanejad missed 13 games due to injury). However, Strome won only 47.5 per cent of his draws (a total of 496 wins). For a guy who doesn't hit, shoot, or block shots, a low faceoff winning percentage is just one more thing that makes it tough to justify picking him up in leagues with peripherals.

5. Logan Couture

Despite being a number-one centre on the Sharks, Couture simply doesn't take many faceoffs because he's not good at it. This season, he took only 443 faceoffs, fourth-highest on the Sharks behind Tomas Hertl, Barclay Goodrow and Joe Thornton. Couture was way behind those players in faceoff percentage, finishing with 44 per cent. He's gone the opposite way of many players as he started his first five seasons above 50 per cent, but has been getting worse almost every year, and was as low as 39.4 per cent a few years back.

4. Derek Stepan

Stepan is a good cautionary tale of what happens when you're not effective at the faceoff dot. A few years ago, he was winning 700-plus faceoffs a season despite a 47 per cent winning percentage simply because Arizona had no one else to go to. That's not the case anymore, as both Christian Dvorak and Brad Richardson have been dynamite, winning 55.1 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. Stepan is starting to take fewer faceoffs, going from 19 per game in each of the last two seasons to 17 this year. That doesn't sound like a lot, but if he went 50 per cent on those missed draws, that's 82 fewer faceoff wins over a full season.

3. Connor McDavid

How bad has McDavid been at faceoffs? He's taken just 670 of them this season, which is almost half of what Leon Draisaitl has taken. It's also 164 fewer than third-line centre Riley Sheahan, who was also below a 50 per cent winning percentage this season. One positive sign for McDavid owners in keeper pools with faceoffs is that he is improving, going from 41.4 per cent two seasons ago to 46.6 per cent last year to 47.8 per cent this season. Sidney Crosby was the same way, struggling his first two years in the league before becoming one of the most underrated.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

As we talked about in the intro, some players who are continuously underperforming for faceoffs start taking less each season. Kuznetsov falls into this category.

15-16:  1,137 faceoffs, 543 wins, 47.8 per cent

16-17:  1,037 faceoffs, 456 wins, 43.8 per cent

17-18:  1,018 faceoffs, 450 wins, 44.2 per cent

18-19:  1,023 faceoffs, 396 wins, 38.7 per cent

19-20:  803 faceoffs, 348 wins, 43.3 per cent

Granted, this season he's played about 13 fewer games than last year due to the season being suspended and injury, but even pro-rated to 76 games (what he played last season), he was on pace for 968 faceoffs and 420 faceoff wins.

1. Nathan MacKinnon

Much like Kuznetsov, MacKinnon's prowess in the faceoff circle has become so horrendous that he doesn't take as many as he once did. Back in 2016-17, the only season he had a winning percentage above 50 per cent, he took 1,520 faceoffs and won 768. Since then, his faceoff winning percentage is a combined 42.9 per cent, including 43.2 per cent this year. Last season, he took 1,184 and won 518. This year, he took 841 and won 363 (pro-rated over 82 games to 999 faceoffs taken and 431 wins). Even going with the pro-rated number, that's 531 fewer faceoffs and 327 fewer wins.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VAN Players
23.7% J.T. MILLER ELIAS PETTERSSON TYLER TOFFOLI
20.8% BROCK BOESER BO HORVAT TANNER PEARSON
19.7% TYLER MOTTE BRANDON SUTTER JAKE VIRTANEN

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