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The Best and Worst 3rd-Line Centres: CONCLUSION

September 4, 2016, 1:19 PM ET [172 Comments]
James Tanner
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The Conclusions to this series are at the bottom - feel free to jump straight there as not everyone may be interested in my intro/explanations of methods.

This is part three of our look into the third-line centres in the NHL. In part one, I attempted to open source the project so that the majority of the time wouldn't be spent arguing over who qualifies as a third-line centre - boy, was I naive!!

As I said in part-two, the list is subjective because there is no good way of identifying who qualifies because no games have been played in several months and virtually every team made roster changes and will promote, demote etc.

So there are a couple of players - Sam Reinhart, Tomas Hertl, Trevor Lewis - whose teams likely elect to play them with better players, higher in the lineup and on the wing (or at least have done so in the past). I think it's still worth investigating how they stack up vs. other 3Cs, however, because they are a) natural centres and b) arguably more valuable to their team if they can help create a powerful third line.

There are also some players proving to be so bad that they can't possibly be their team's best options - Bo Horvat and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare jump to mind. In order to combat both these objections, perhaps I'll do a post comparing their team's other options.

In part two, we looked at expected-goals for and against, as well as points-per-sixty minutes.
Today we will look at Corsi, Relative Corsi and make some conclusions.

Stats are from corsica.hockey and filtered for 5v5.

Here is the set of players we are using.

Anaheim: Rickard Rakell
Arizona : Christian Dvorak
Boston : David Backes
Buffalo: Sam Reinhart
Calgary: MIkael Backlund
Carolina: Elias Lindholm
Chicago: Marcus Kruger
Columbus: William Karlsson
Colorado: Carl Soderberg
Dallas: Radek Faksa
Detroit: Riley Sheahan
Edmonton: Leon Draisaitl
Florida:Vincent Trochek
LA: Trevor Lewis
MN: M Koivu
Montreal: David Desharnais
New York: Kevin Hayes
Long Island: Brock Nelson
New Jersey: Pavel Zacha
Nashville: Mike Fisher
Ottawa: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Philly: Pierre Edouard Bellemare
Pittsburgh: Nick Bonino
San Jose: Thomas Hertl
St. Louis: Patrik Berglund
Tampa: Vladislev Namestnikov
Toronto: Tyler Bozak
Washington: Lars Eller
Winnipeg: Matt Perreault
Vancouver: Bo Horvat

Corsi-For %
1. Perrault 57.10
2. Hertl 56.55
3. Lewis 55.71
4. Namestnikov 55.14
5. Faksa 53.82

24. Kruger 48.38
25. Pageau 46.95
26. Bellmare 46.49
27. Horvat 45.83
28. Soderberg 45.17

Corsi-For Relative to Teammates.
1. Perreault 7.42
2. Hertl 6.64
3. Backlund 5.80
4. Koivu 5.56
5. Reinhart 4.46

24. Nelson - 1.18
25. Desharnais - 1.49
26. Horvat -1.82
27. Kruger -3.40
28. Bellemare - 5.71


In order to get to the following conclusions, we looked at expected-goals for and against, as well as their differentials. We looked at raw possession (Corsi) and we looked at relative-possession. We also looked at points per 60 minutes of icetime.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I fully disclose that I don't care about things like face-offs, quality of competition and zone starts. You might, and that's your prerogative. I am sure there are extenuating circumstances in some cases where the following conclusions might not be fair (specifically to Bo Horvat, playing on a terrible team, as a rookie playing the hardest position with terrible matchups. Old Bo has tons of potential and may one day improve greatly.)

Either way, here we go:

I thought the best way to do this was to group the players into four categories - Best, Worst, OK and Bad. Note that because of the likelihood of their playing rookies this year, the Coyotes and Devils are not rated.


These players are light-years ahead of the competition and their teams definitely have the option of running three first-line quality lines. The teams these guys play for should all be Cup Contenders if they can actually deploy these guys on a third line. A team like Calgary is pretty borderline here because a lot depends on if Sam Bennett can centre the second-line effectively.

1. Tomas Hertl

He drives possession, scores at a first-line pace and provides elite level defense. The only player in this project to be in the top-five at expected goals for and expected goals against.

San Jose needs to give him his own line, because he is potentially the best 3C in the NHL.

2. Nick Bonino
3. Leon Draisaitl
4. Vincent Trocheck
5. Mathieu Perreault
6. Vladislav Namestnikov
7. Mikael Backlund


These players are effective and give their teams pretty decent depth. In most cases it's their defense that keeps them being effective. They aren't generally guys who could play a second or even first line role like the players in the "great" category, but their teams should still feel comfortable deploying them.

8. Sam Reinhart - ranking him so high here mostly on potential. He had a very good rookie season and the thought of Eichel-O'Reilly-Reinhart down the middle has to give Buffalo a huge amount of excitement for the future. It's hard to picture them using a player of this calibre on teh wing for too long.

9. Elias Lindholm
10. Patrik Berglund
11. Rickard Rakell
12. M. Koivu
13. Mike Fisher
14. Trevor Lewis
15. Lars Eller
16. William Karlsson
17. Radek Faksa


These players aren't the worst, but only because there are somehow even worse players than them getting regular shifts. Every player on this list needs to be replaced with someone better as soon as humanly possible.

18. Riley Sheahan
19. David Backes
20. Tyler Bozak
21. Kevin Hayes
22. David Desharnais

The Worst

These are the eight worst third-line centres in the NHL. No surprise here, but all these teams are in danger of missing the Playoffs.

23. Bo Horvat - Ranking him the highest of the worst because of the best odds that he improves.
24. Carl Soderberg - No amount of scoring can overcome his terrible defense.
25. Jean-Gabriel Pageau
26. Brock Nelson
27. Marcus Kruger
28. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Thanks for reading!
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