Fantasy Hockey Cheat Sheets: Faceoff winners

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.

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    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET) 

    The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.

    San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.

    Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:

    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

    Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

    Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series

    Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

    Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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    People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

    Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

    … Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

    Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

    For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

    For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

    Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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    Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

    The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

    “We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

    If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

    Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

    “Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

    Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

    PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

    –The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

    –Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

    –Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

    –A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

    –“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

    –Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial: