Training camp wouldn’t be training camp without questions. Who will get cut? What rookie will be the next to pull a Colton Parayko? How much faster can Vladimir Tarasenko even be?
This year, the big question as camp starts seems to be who Mike Yeo will have centering his four lines. Tom Timmerman asked the question recently, and Mike Yeo appeared to answer it by having Robby Fabbri back at his old position. Fabbri was centering Tage Thompson and Magnus Paajarvi yesterday.
It’s a foregone conclusion, as Timmerman points out, that Paul Stastny and Kyle Brodziak will start the year centering their lines. That leaves, with the absence of Patrik Berglund, two center positions open. The Blues are fairly fortunate in the fact that, if you’re looking at face off percentage, they have several players that are more than competent to fill the role.
Vladimir Sobotka (and I know the mention of his name makes some of you guys cringe, but he’s here so the Blues might as well use him) has a stellar 57.4% face off win percentage during his seasons with the Blues. Chris Thorburn, the Blues’ most recent off-season acquisition, will more than likely play right wing on Brodziak’s line, could be a capable emergency fill-in at center if Brodziak misses a game. Thorburn has a 53.1% face off win percentage, and had one of 55.7% last season with the Jets. While he shouldn’t play above the fourth line (this isn’t the Atlanta Thrashers, after all), he isn’t a slouch at the dot.
The favored two centers for the second and third lines seem to be, as of now, Fabbri and Brayden Schenn. Schenn has a career face off win percentage of 45%, and has never had one higher than 47%. That’s not much off of Berglund’s career 47.1% FO win percentage, but Berglund has won at least 50% of his faceoffs the last two seasons. The questions surrounding Schenn’s ability to win in the dot are fair ones, but he doesn’t deviate much from what the norm has been for the Blues.
Looking at career assists, however, a broader picture starts to peek out. Among the centers (or potential centers) who could be playing on the power play, here’s the breakdown:
- Patrik Berglund - 105 ES assists, 39 PP assists in 9 NHL seasons
- Brayden Schenn - 91 ES assists, 48 PP assists in 6 full NHL seasons
- Robby Fabbri - 26 ES assists, 11 PP assists in 2 NHL seasons (one truncated by injury)
- Paul Stastny - 246 ES assists, 140 PP assists in 11 NHL seasons
- Alexander Steen - 205 ES assists, 111 PP assists in 13 NHL seasons
After looking at the face-off and scoring stats, centering the second and third lines looks like a job for Schenn and Fabbri. However, this is only training camp; lines are going to solidify before the season, and once the season starts lines are going to change.
It still allows me to pose the question to you guys: who do you have for the other two centers?