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Ranking the NHL's Top Faceoff Players in 2016-17

A good faceoff man can save an NHL team goals and a lot of work by winning possession. In the offensive zone, there is an enormous amount of activity after a win for the attacking team—all nullified if there is a clean win by the defensive team.

NHL teams are constantly tweaking usage, and the faceoff circle is no exception. There was a time when little importance was placed on strong-side and weak-side faceoff attempts, and specialists at the skill were unheard of in the game. Now, NHL teams are using faceoff men on the power play who would never be in that position without the single ability to win possession.

Here are the 10 best faceoff men in the game and what makes them special.

1. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

What Do the Numbers Say? Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks leads the NHL in faceoff percentage at 60.7. He is also effective against both left- and right-handed opposition while being used heavily in both offensive and defensive zones. 

How Is He Deployed? Toews is used in all situations, as required, and represents the true definition of a complete center. He plays in all game states, takes faceoffs in all zones with equal aplomb and is effective against opponents no matter their handedness.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Toews has always been a stellar player in this area, as reflected by his career 57.2 percent total.

2. Ryan O'Reilly, C, Buffalo Sabres

What Do the Numbers Say? Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres ranks No. 2 in NHL faceoff percentage, with an impressive 60.5 total. 

How Is He Deployed? O'Reilly is being used equally across all three zones and facing lefties 66 percent of the time. He is also deployed at even strength and on both special teams.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? He has a career rate of 53.3 percent and has spiked since arriving in Buffalo. Players often improve as they get more established in the league, and this seems to be the case with O'Reilly.

3. Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes

What Do the Numbers Say? Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes ranks No. 3 in NHL faceoff percentage, with an impressive 60.2 total. 

How Is He Deployed? Staal, who is left-handed, is most effective against left-shooting opposition. Staal has taken 47 offensive-zone and 55 defensive-zone faceoffs this year—he is being used about equally.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? He is 50.9 for his career, but Staal is over 55 percent since being moved to the Hurricanes. His faceoff winning percentage has improved in each of his Carolina seasons.

4. Ryan Kesler, C, Anaheim Ducks

What Do the Numbers Say? Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks ranks No. 4 among regular NHL centers in faceoff percentage at 60.1 percent. 

How Is He Deployed? Kesler is a righty center and a tremendous weapon against left-handed opponents. This gives Anaheim a major edge during important in-game matchups.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? He has a 55.5 percent success rate, so this season's 60.1 total may fade as the year goes on. As long as Kesler can keep this number in the range of his career total, he represents a big advantage to the Ducks in most faceoff situations.

5. Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins

What Do the Numbers Say? Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins ranks No. 5 among centers in faceoff percentage so far this season at 58.8 percent. 

How Is He Deployed? Bergeron is currently the most recognized defensive forward in the game, complete with three Selke Trophy victories over the years. He is more likely to face off against a left-handed center and is more likely to be used for an offensive-zone faceoff.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? He has a 58.3 percent success rate in the faceoff circle, a tremendous number. Bergeron has a litany of numbers that prove his worth as a two-way center, and this is an important one. He is good to great at all elements of the game and one of the NHL's best forwards.

6. Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

What Do the Numbers Say? Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning ranks No. 6 among regular faceoff men, with a 54.2 percent rate. 

How Is He Deployed? As a righty, Johnson faces mostly left-handed opponents and somewhat surprisingly is slightly more likely to take a defensive faceoff.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Johnson is a career 48.8 percent center, and that is a subpar total. His emergence this season could be short-term success, but he is an intelligent player, and the Lightning may have yet another effective faceoff weapon in Johnson.

7. Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers

What Do the Numbers Say? Claude Giroux is tied for No. 7 in faceoff percentage so far this year at 53.5. The Philadelphia Flyers pivot has a wide range of skills, including prowess in the dot. 

How Is He Deployed? He is a presence at even strength and is used heavily on the power play. He has faced lefties in 298 of his 376 sorties—which makes sense, since he is right-handed. He is also deployed most often in the offensive zone.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Giroux is a complete player, although his offense is the most recognized part of his game. His career faceoff percentage—54.1—is an outstanding number for such a prolific offensive player.

8. Eric Staal, C, Minnesota Wild

What Do the Numbers Say? Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild is tied for No. 7 in the NHL currently in faceoff percentage at 53.5 percent. 

How Is He Deployed? He is mostly used at even strength and in all three zones.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Staal is a career 48.8 percent center, the low number owing mostly to a large number of faceoffs taken as a young player. He has been at 50 percent or better since 2011-12 and is an effective player in this era. At 32, this skill could extend Staal's career by several years.

9. Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota Wild

What Do the Numbers Say? Mikko Koivu ranks No. 9 among NHL centermen this year in faceoff percentage at 53.3 percent. 

How Is He Deployed? He is used heavily at even strength and on the penalty kill and has taken more defensive-zone faceoffs than any other NHL center this year. His deployment represents some of the toughest terrain in the league.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Koivu is a career 54.4 faceoff man and a complete player—he has been an effective two-way player for many years. Some of his potential offense is sacrificed due to his usage, but Minnesota benefits from deploying him in the toughest minutes available.

10. Brandon Sutter, C, Vancouver Canucks

What Do the Numbers Say? Brandon Sutter of the Vancouver Canucks boasts a 53.1 faceoff percentage, good for No. 10 among NHL faceoff men. 

How Is He Deployed? He is used in all three disciplines, although slightly more often on the penalty kill than power play. He is used more often and is more effective against lefties, although he is also left-handed. He is a little more likely to be deployed in the defensive end this season.

Is This Season Consistent with His Career? Sutter is at 48.6 for his career, but as is the case with many young centers in the top 10, he is improving with each season. Sutter has a nice range of skills and is emerging as one of the better faceoff men in the NHL.

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