What is the most important position in ice hockey? Ice hockey has four positions – goalie, defense, wingers, and centers. Each position has a clearly stated role to perform on the ice, contributing to the game’s success. But which position is the most important? Is it the goalie? Or the forwards? Or even maybe the defense? This is what we will explore in this article.
The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey: The Center
The most important position in ice hockey has to be the center. I know it can be argued that the award is supposed to go to the position of the goalie, who is underrated and performs a crucial function in the game. But, in reality, it just has to be the center position.
Now, why do I pick the center position as the most important position in ice hockey?
It is true that every position on the ice performs a function that is crucial to the outcome of the game. However, if we should weigh the position based on responsibility, performance, and role, then it is easy to see how much relevance centers offer to the game.
Let’s run a quick analysis – is a goalie’s role is demanding? Yes. I can even classify the role of a goalie as the most challenging role in ice hockey, but does its difficulty make it the most relevant? No.
Even with an average goalie, a team can win games once the defense is efficient. So this means they can be replaced, right?
What about wingers?
Ice hockey wingers stick mostly with scoring goals. Although scoring goals is the main objective of the game, they do not really do that much in other parts of the game. So even though they perform a vital role, they do not really contribute in order aspect to their team.
Finally, the center position?
Just like the name, he is at the center of the entire game. According to science, for a body to be in equilibrium (balance), there have to be at least three forces.
The same goes for ice hockey. There are two wingers and two defensemen, but it is the job of the centerman to balance both offense and defense.
What Does A Center Do In Ice Hockey?
Simply, the center position is the lead and support of every game in ice hockey. From the instance a game commences, the center position must be able to create opportunities in the offense and act as a third wheel in defense and offense.
At the start of the match, the centerman takes the faceoff at center ice. The centerman takes every other faceoff except on a few occasions, like when he is serving penalty time.
Center positions score and create scoring chances. They also defend and serve as a third-wheel defensemen. This makes them a defenseman as much as they are forwards.
They are also expected to have superb playmaking abilities, intense hockey vision, and stick skills. Since they serve as an intermediary between the offensive and defensive zone, they determine the pace of the game.
Here is an instance. If the puck goes into the defensive zone and the two defensemen battle for the puck, the centerman is expected to assist in defense so that when a team finally regains possession, the centerman can be responsible for bringing it into the offensive zone.
This ensures that the two defenses are in their position in case a situation where the puck is reclaimed by the opposing team occurs. In this scenario, he walks his way from defense to offense.
To read more on the role, responsibility, and skills expected of an ice hockey player, check out this article: How To Play The Center Position In Ice Hockey: The Centerman.
Why The Center Is The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey (5 Proofs)
The center position in ice hockey is the most important, and there is proof to back up that fact. Every reason mentioned below is backed up that has been compiled and represented in the form of a chart.
So here are five reasons why the center position is the most important in ice hockey.
Position With Most Hart Trophies
Over the last 42 years (1980-2022), the Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player Award) has been awarded to 41 players. However, the majority of the players awarded the Hart Memorial trophy play the center position.
In fact, from the 1980-81 season to the 1990-91 season, the award was won by only ice hockey centermen 11 times, with the likes of Wayne Gretzky winning the award eight times during this period, seven of with were back to back.
Even if the awards of other positions are summed up, it is still far from the number of times centermen have been made the most valuable player of a playoff season.
Most of the time, the best players on a team are given the center position because it is the most important.
Centers Have Most Hall Of Fame Inductees
The center position has the highest number of inductees in the NHL Hall Of Fame. The NHL Hall Of Fame is an award and monumental recognition given to players who had exemplary and distinctive career races in the NHL.
Yearly, the NHL inducts a few players into its Hall Of Fame. But when the data of the players inducted into the HOF from 1990-2022, players who played the center position obtained the largest percentage.
76.6% of the NHL Hall Of Fame inductees are forwards. However, 31.4% of the forwards play the center position. Even though the position of the goalies is considered the toughest in ice hockey, only 8.6% of the players were from that position.
But if the percentages of both right and left-wingers are added up, then it surpasses that of centermen by a close margin.
Center Are Mostly 1st Pick For Entry Drafts
The NHL entry draft is an event where every NHL team scraps for the next big player to add to their roster. It is an annual event that leads to over two hundred NHL drafts.
However, not every drafted player will play in the NHL, and only the first, second, and sometimes third picks are guaranteed an NHL contract.
But, there is a position that is idolized in draft picks, and these are the first overall draft pick. The first overall draft picks are usually the most talented and valuable players on the draft list.
Numerous players that were the first draft picks during their time were exceptional players in the league.
But which position is most coveted during draft picks?
Well, based on statistical data from over the years, it turned out to be the center position. Almost half (accurately 42.4%) of all first-overall drafts in the NHL were for players who played the center position.
This is because every franchise in the NHL wants a good center that can cement their place in the playoffs and even lead them to a Stanley victory.
A good example is Sidney Crosby, who came into the league as a first-overall draft pick and led the Penguins to three Stanley victories, two of which were consecutive.
Most Goals And Game Points Are By Centers
The center position in ice hockey is known for its scoring prowess as they are expected to put numbers on the scoreboard. Part of the skillsets an ice hockey center needs is for them to know how to score goals and create scoring opportunities such as assists.
The scoring ability of centers comes naturally to them as they must be able to think of new, efficient, and on-the-spot ideas of how to score. This is something that can’t be taught, unlike defending.
During most regular seasons, the highest-scoring player per season is usually from the center position. The table shows the highest-scoring players for the last fifteen NHL seasons.
|2007-08||Alexander Ovechkin||Left Winger||112|
|2010-11||Daniel Sedin||Left Wing||104|
|2012-13||Martin St. Louis||Right Winger||60|
|2014-15||Jamie Benn||Left Wing||87|
|2015-16||Patrick Kane||Right Wing||106|
|2018-19||Nikita Kucherov||Right Winger||128|
Centers Will Be The First Pick If The NHL Is Re-Drafted
Let’s assume the NHL wants to have a complete redraft of every player in the league. And let’s assume every player (centers, wingers, defense, and goalies) is placed on the draft board.
Which set of players do you think NHL franchises will pick as their first through third drafts? It will definitely be forwards, most especially centers. No team is ready to lose a valuable forward for another position, such as a goalie or defenseman.
An average goalie or defenseman can take a team to an extent, but the position that determines if the game will be lost or won is the center.
Basically, centers play a position so crucial that having one that every other player is built around them.
I hope you enjoyed this article. The use of data and charts is so you can get the idea in seconds without having to read that much.
In all, centers will always remain an essential and the most important part of a team. A lot of the greatest players in NHL history (past and present), such as Gretzky and Crosby, all play the position of center.
Thanks for reading.