Any team’s face-off man in the NLL has a huge responsibility, and this responsibility is one that should not be overlooked. How important is this role? Take a look at the two team’s that reached the Champion’s Cup last season. Jay Thorimbert, then of the East Division Champion Buffalo Bandits, was the league’s best regular face-off man, winning 57.8% of his draws (289/500). Who was second best? None other than Jeremy Thompson of the Champion’s Cup winning Saskatchewan Rush, who was 56.9% at the face-off dot (279/490).
Face-offs won, equal more possession. More possession equals more time on attack, and thus more opportunity to score, and less opportunity to get scored on. While it may still be early in the season, and it’s important to give these players the recognition they deserve. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 face-off men in the league right now.
1. Bradley Kri, Toronto Rock – 4GP – 62/87 – 71.2%
These are numbers that don’t signify luck. A 71% win rate after 87 times at the face-off dot suggests Kri has taking draws down to an art this season. The Halton Hills Bulldogs/Orangeville Northmen product is certainly off to a great start in 2017, improving on his 55% (196/358) on face-offs in 2016. With a 3-1 record, The Rock are currently one of the hottest teams in the league, and they’ve currently got the best face-off man in the league. Coincidence? I think not.
2. Jay Thorimbert, New England Black Wolves – 5 GP – 79/121 – 65.2%
As aforementioned, Jay Thorimbert was the league’s top regular face-off man in 2016, and he’s proving this season that that was no mistake. Thorimbert’s efforts at the dot have been a big part of the Black Wolves recent successes. In the Black Wolves most recent win over the Rochester Knighthawks, Thorimbert went 13/22 (59%). In their win over the Buffalo Bandits, he was 20/29 (70%) on draws. If New England wants to continue to head in the right direction, they’re going to need the Whitby, Ontario native to keep up his draw winning ways.
3. Lyle Thompson, Georgia Swarm – 5 GP – 16/27 – 59.2%
Lyle Thompson may not be the Head Coach Ed Comeau’s first choice when it comes to taking face-offs (Jordan MacIntosh seems to be), but he’s had success at the dot so far this season. Lyle may have been taking notes from his older brother Jeremy, who is the go-to man for the Saskatchewan Rush, and it’s paying off. Thompson has been playing a complete lacrosse game this season, leading the league in shorthanded goals, and Swarm in points, and the fact that he can also win draws makes him that much more of a valuable tool for his team.
4. Jarrett Toll, Vancouver Stealth – 4GP – 16/28 – 57.1%
Brendan Fowler has become the go-to face-off man for the Vancouver Stealth, having taken the most draws out of anyone in the league with 158, but the 7 year NLL veteran Toll has proved to be a solid back-up choice for the team. Fowler is in his first year in the NLL, so expect him to get a better grasp of face-offs in the box game. In the meantime, Toll will provide relief for the converted field playing Fowler. Toll only won 39% (82/211) of the draws he took last season, so he’s already shown improvement in 2017.
5. Dan Coates, Colorado Mammoth – 6GP – 66-124 – 53.2%
The captain of the Mammoth, Coates, is one of the better defenders in the league, and the fact that he takes the majority of his team’s draws makes him an even more appreciated member of his club. Back in 2015, the Mammoth started relying more heavily on Coates when it came to taking face-offs. This season, Coates is on pace to take approximately 372 draws for his team.