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Fantasy Hockey Cheat Sheets: Faceoff winners

Aug 29, 2010, 8:00 PM EDT

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Thumbnail image for stoll faceoff.jpgWhile Pro Hockey Talk doesn’t specialize in fantasy hockey (our Rotoworld cousins do, though), we still think that there are areas where we can help you, the budding imaginary general managers. For that reason, we’re going to discuss different philosophies, strategies and cheat sheets as fantasy drafts begin to increase around North America.

Previous entry: Penalty Minutes.

Tonight’s entry: Faceoff leaders.

While it’s not a stat that pops up in every fantasy hockey league, faceoff wins (or “FW”) is one of the easiest categories to dominate if you’re in a league with less-than-observant opponents. Generally speaking, they’re pretty consistent game to game so you can build a team that generates a lot of FWs with outstanding consistency.

Before I reveal a few tricks, here are the top 15 faceoff winners from the last three seasons. Keep in mind I don’t really care about winning percentage, since a 60 percent rate doesn’t mean much if you only take a few draws per year.

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While Alex Ovechkin mauls everyone in the shots on goal category*, Sidney Crosby’s value increases when FW are a category considering the fact that a) he takes a ton of faceoffs and b) he seemingly improves his skills in the faceoff circle every year. While I mostly ignore faceoff winning percentage, it’s a good indicator for budding stars. Chances are, Jonathan Toews might get a little better at draws and would naturally win a lot more if he can play 82 out of 82 games rather than just 73.

* – Yes, there will probably be a “SOG” cheat sheet too.

selannefaceoff.jpgThere’s one tricky move that savvy fantasy owners use: adding wingers who win faceoffs. I couldn’t find an easily sortable list, but after some digging I came up with the biggest FW generators who might be considered a winger (or, sometimes, they get the very spiffy C/RW or C/LW eligibility). Here are the wingers who made NHL.com’s top 100 faceoff win list.

*Henrik Zetterberg (often listed as a LW) won 544 faceoffs last season, good for 41st in the NHL.
*David Backes (often listed as a RW) won 504 last year, good for 50th.
*RJ Umberger (sometimes a LW) won 372 last year (good for No. 82).
*Patrick Marleau (if he’s on a line with Joe Thornton) might not be considered a center-only. He won 316 last year, tying him with Marc Savard for 94th.
*Claude Giroux (RW) won 297, good for 98th place.

With this information, you should be able to be build one of the top teams in your league in FWs. Some might scoff at paying attention to a stat like FW, but if you’re in a league that counts them as a category they actually count just as much as goals or assists, especially if your league doesn’t also include a separate points category. Why not dominate a category that is predictable and easy to win, especially since you can focus on the Crosbys and Zetterbergs who bring faceoff wins to the table but also can score in large quantities? I’m not saying focus solely on FW, but if you’re in a coin flip scenario, go with the guy who will win more.

Hopefully this cheat sheet will help you target those players. Expect more fantasy articles and cheat sheets as this week goes along.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Rinne (1211)
  2. S. Bennett (1189)
  3. R. Malone (1159)
  4. D. Alfredsson (1155)
  5. J. Drouin (1155)