The NHL season is right around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about who to draft. We begin with the top 20 centers of the league and will be focusing only on players who might be lining up in the middle this season. Other players with center eligibility may be in another ranking or have missed the cut. These rankings are based off of Yahoo’s standard league categories, adjust accordingly.
1. Connor McDavid (EDM – C)
Because he’s McJesus.
2. Sidney Crosby (PIT – C)
Sid is easily the safest choice. He recorded his fourth consecutive 80+ point season and finished with 21 points in 12 playoff games. He’s Mr. Consistent and you know what you’re getting. The floor is 80+ points with the ceiling being MVP.
3. Nathan MacKinnon (COL – C)
MacKinnon took off after the Matt Duchene trade and never looked back. He put the team on his back and brought Colorado to the playoffs. While doing so, he posted 3.95 points per 60 minutes and only Malkin had higher with 3.97. He also posted a 1.31 points-per-game played, only McDavid had higher with 1.32. He’s young and exciting and I can see people picking him over Crosby.
4. Evgeni Malkin (PIT – C)
The big knock on “Geno” is health. He played 78 out of the 82 games which is so surprising considering he hadn’t played over 70 games since 2011-12. When healthy he’s a beast as he finished fourth overall in scoring this season. Geno and Phil Kessel have formed a nice duo in Pittsburgh making them lethal threats every night.
5. Steven Stamkos (TB – C)
Last season, Tampa Bay was the highest scoring team with a top five power-play and I don’t see that changing this year. They are one of the best teams and Stamkos is playing with MVP candidate Nikita Kucherov. Always known as a goal-scorer, he showed his playmaking abilities with 59 assists, 5th among centers, he can do it all.
6. Claude Giroux (PHI – C, LW)
It was a huge bounce back year for the man known as “G”. He shifted to the wing and ended up finishing second in scoring with 102 points. Now reunited with his pigeon (James van Riemsdyk), it will be interesting to see if Sean Couturier continues to center this line or if they want two scoring lines. Monitor the situation, if he plays with Couturier, I’m in.
7. Tyler Seguin (DAL – C)
If you want shots, Tyler Seguin is your guy. He’s always amongst the top centers in shots and it usually results in 30+ goal seasons. He plays with an elite player, Jamie Benn, so expect another great season. These guys are studs and Seguin will be amongst the top goal scorers once again.
8. John Tavares (TOR – C)
The coveted free agent returned home to Toronto. Last season marked career-highs in a lot of categories for Tavares. It’s safe to assume that he will be very productive since Toronto is one of the best offensive teams. Fans are just wondering what the power-play situation will look like.
9. Mark Scheifele ( WPG – C)
If it weren’t for the upper-body injury that knocked him out for 6-8 weeks, he would be amongst the top scorers. After the injury, he posted 22 points in 22 games. He carried that momentum into the playoffs where he scored 20 points in 17 games. He’s a legitimate superstar in a stacked Winnipeg offense.
10. Anze Kopitar (LA – C)
New system, new career-highs for Kopitar. He played most of the year with Dustin Brown, and he too, had a bounce back year. Kopitar did everything for LA, the next highest point producer on the team was none other than Brown with 61 points, a 31-point difference. The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk means a better power-play and a better left wing to play with, get excited.
11. Auston Matthews (TOR – C)
Now back to the Toronto power-play, Auston Matthews needs more. In fact, all the kids in Toronto need more so how about putting them together and loading up the top unit? Matthews tied Eric Staal for fifth with 29 even strength goals. He is one of those players who can score in multiple ways so a bump in PP time means a bump in points.
12. Patrice Bergeron (BOS – C)
Bergeron is centering what I believe is the best line in hockey. He’s known for his two-way play over his offensive game, but this line has shown what they can do over the course of a season and then turned it up a notch against the Leafs in the playoffs. He recorded 16 points in 11 playoff games. Boston looks good and this line is crazy good.
13. Vincent Trocheck (FLA – C)
The number two center on the Florida Panthers proved to be a fantasy monster. He gave you everything and you didn’t have to pay a big price. Among centers, he finished tied for ninth with 145 hits and second in shots on goal with 287. What a year he had and with the addition of Mike Hoffman, another monster year should be expected.
14. Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH – C)
The two Russians finally got the chance to play together and the result was a career season which included leading the Washington Capitals in scoring with 32 points in 24 playoff games as they won the Stanley Cup. Kuznetsov is now the man playing alongside Alexander Ovechkin and we should expect an encore performance.
15. Aleksander Barkov (FLA – C)
The former 2nd overall pick in 2013 set career-highs across the board, scoring 78 points in 79 games. Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are forming a nice tandem down in Florida. He upped his shot totals from 142 to 256 and is rounding into the player Florida wanted when they drafted him.
16. Ryan Getzlaf (ANA – C)
He is the heart of the Ducks offense. Last year his shots on goal dropped to 117 due to only playing 56 games. I think he can get back to giving you 170 shots. Pair that with 100+ hits and scoring near a point-per-game pace, he’s a valuable contributor to anyone’s team.
17. Brayden Schenn (STL – C)
Schenn emerged as the Blues’ number one center. He set career-highs in goals, points and shots on goal, while scoring close to a point-per-game pace in the first half with 50 points in 51 games. He slowed down considerably in the second half, but is in a great spot in between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
18. Jack Eichel (BUF – C)
Eichel has shown flashes of superstardom, but injuries have been a big issue. My concern is Buffalo looks bad down the middle so Eichel will face the best shutdown lines or even team’s best lines. It’s not all bad as he has a new goal-scoring winger, Jeff Skinner, and it will be interesting to see how the two gel. If you can stomach the plus-minus, then you may get the breakout season we’ve all been waiting for.
19. William Karlsson (VGK – C, LW)
From scoring six goals in 2016-17 to 43 last season, no one in the league improved more than Karlsson. Playing on one of the best lines, the Vegas Golden Knights took the NHL by storm and surprised everyone by going to the Stanley Cup finals. He scored 31 even strength goals, third overall in the league. No one will be taken by surprise this year and I’m worried about his super-high 23.4 shooting percentage.
- 20. Eric Staal (MIN – C)
Eric Staal is fitting in so well with the Minnesota Wild that he looked like the player from the early Carolina days. He scored over 40 goals which he hasn’t done since the 2008-09 season. The chemistry with Jason Zucker was evident and bumped Mikko Koivu off the top power-play. He may not score 40 again but with 29 of them being even strength goals, he will probably flirt with 30+.