The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey – 5 Reasons It’s The Center

What Is The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey?

Which ice hockey position is most important? Goaltender, defense, wingers, and centers are the four positions in ice hockey. Every position on a team has a certain job to accomplish that contributes to the game’s success.

However, which position can we call the most important? Perhaps the goalkeeper, possibly the forwards, or even the defense? This is what we will be looking at in this article.

The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey: The Center

What Is The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey?

The center position in ice hockey must be the most crucial. I am aware that the argument can be made that goalies are undervalued while playing a significant role in the game. Yet, in fact, only the center can take up this part.

Now, why do I consider the center position to be the most crucial one in ice hockey?

It is accurate to say that every position on the rink has a purpose that is essential to the result of the game. However, when evaluating how much significance centers provide to the game, it is easy to judge their significance in terms of responsibility, performance, and duty.

Let’s quickly examine how tough a goalie’s job is. Yes. Even if I would say that playing as a goaltender in ice hockey is the most difficult position, does that make it the most important? No.

A team can win games even with an average goalkeeper if their defense is strong. They can thus be replaced, right?

What about the wingers?

Ice hockey wingers’ main focus is on goal scoring. Although scoring goals is the game’s major purpose, they don’t really contribute very much in other areas. They therefore don’t actually contribute to their team’s overall success, although playing a vital role.

And last, what about the center?

He is the focal point of the entire game, as suggested by the name (center). According to science, there must be a minimum of three forces acting on a body for it to be in balance.

Ice hockey follows the same rules. Two wingers and two defensemen are present, but it is the centerman’s responsibility to strike a balance between offensive and defense.

What Does A Center Do In Ice Hockey?

Simply put, in every ice hockey game the center position serves as both the leader and the support. The center position must be able to spark offense and serve as a link between the defense and offense from the moment a game starts.

The centerman starts the game by winning the faceoff at center ice. Except for a few instances, such as when he is serving time for a penalty, the centerman takes every other faceoff.

Center positions contribute to goals and opportunities for goals. They defend as well as act as the third-wheel defensemen in the defensive zone. Because of this, they can play both forward and defense.

Exceptional playmaking talents, keen hockey vision, and stick skills are also needed of them. They set the tempo of the game since they stand between the offensive and defensive zones.

This is one example. A centerman is expected to aid in defense in a situation when the puck enters the defensive zone and the two defensemen engage in a puck battle for it. The reason this is done is so that when the puck is repossessed, the center can easily transition into moving it into the offensive zone.

This helps to maintain the formation of the defense in case the opponent intercepts the puck again. Therefore rather than a defenseman breaking the formation while taking the puck outside the defensive zone, they can keep securing the goal net.

Why The Center Is The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey (5 Proofs)

Why The Center Is The Most Important Position In Ice Hockey

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 and 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.

1. Position With Most Hart Trophies 

41 players have received the Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player Award) in the past 42 years (1980–2022). The Hart Memorial Trophy winners, though, seem to favor the center position.

From the 1980–81 season through the 1990–91 season, only ice hockey centermen won the award (11 times), with Wayne Gretzky winning it eight times during this time period, seven of which were back-to-back.

Even after adding all the awards for the other positions, the number of times centermen have been named the most valuable player in the regular season is still significantly larger.

The center position is typically assigned to the finest players on a team because it is the most crucial.

Position With Most Hart Trophies chart

2. Centers Have Most Hall Of Fame Inductees 

Inductees into the NHL Hall Of Fame are most frequently found playing the center position. The NHL Hall Of Fame induction is a huge honor presented to players who have outstanding and noteworthy NHL careers.

A few players are added to the NHL’s Hall of Fame each year. Yet, the data of the players admitted into the HOF from 1990 through 2022 revealed that the majority of them were centers.

Forwards make up 76.6% of those inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame. Yet, 31.4% of the forwards play center. Only 8.6% of the players were goalies, despite the fact that this is the position that is thought to be the most difficult in ice hockey.

It does, however, narrowly edge out centermen when the percentages of both right and left wings are combined.

NHL Hall Of Fame chart from 1990-2022

3. Center Are Mostly 1st Pick For Entry Drafts

Every NHL team competes for the next star player to join their roster at the NHL entry draft. More than 200 players are drafted as a result of this yearly event.

Yet not every player selected will end up in the NHL, and only the first, second, and occasionally third picks are assured of a deal.

Nonetheless, there is a position that is idolized when it comes to draft picks, and these are the first overall picks. The most skilled and valued players on the draft list are often selected with the first overall choice. Many players who were selected first overall in their respective drafts turned out to be outstanding players in the league.

So which position in the draft is the most sought-after?

Indeed, it turned out to be the center position based on statistical data collected over the years. 42.4 percent, to be exact, of all first-overall selections in the NHL were made for players who played the center position.

This is so because every NHL team wants a strong center who can guarantee their spot in the playoffs and possibly even take them to a Stanley Cup triumph.

A prime example is Sidney Crosby, who was selected first overall in the league’s draft and helped the Penguins win three Stanley Cups, including two straight.

NHL 1st overall draft pick from 1990-2022

4. Most Goals And Game Points Are By Centers

Ice hockey centers are renowned for their scoring power since they are counted on to put points on the board. An ice hockey center needs to have a variety of talents, including the ability to score goals and create scoring opportunities like assists.

Centers are inherently good at scoring since they must be able to come up with quick, effective, and on-the-spot ways to score. In contrast to defending, this cannot be taught.

The center position typically produces the season’s top scorer during regular seasons. The top scorers during the previous fifteen NHL seasons are displayed in the table.

SeasonPlayerPosition Ponts
2007-08Alexander OvechkinLeft Winger112
2008-09Evgeni MalkinCenter113
2009-10Henrik SedinCenter112
2010-11Daniel SedinLeft Wing104
2011-12Evgeni MalkinCenter109
2012-13Martin St. LouisRight Winger60
2013-14Sidney CrosbyCenter104
2014-15Jamie BennLeft Wing87
2015-16Patrick KaneRight Wing106
2016-17Connor McDavidCenter100
2017-18Connor McDavidCenter108
2018-19Nikita KucherovRight Winger128
2019-20Leon DraisaitlCenter110
2020-21Connor McDavidCenter105
2021-22Connor McDavidCenter123
2022-23Connor McDavidCenter153

5. Centers Will Be The First Pick If The NHL Is Re-Drafted

Assume for the moment that the NHL wishes to completely redraft every player in the league. Also, let’s assume that the draft board has room for every player, including centers, wingers, defense, and goalies.

In your opinion, which group of players will NHL teams select in the first through third rounds of the draft? Forwards, and particularly centers, will be involved. No team is prepared to lose a crucial forward in exchange for a goalkeeper or defenseman.

The position that decides whether the game will be won or lost is the center. An average goalie or defenseman can carry a team to a certain extent.

Fundamentally, centers are so important to the team that every other player is designed to play 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. 

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