The top 10 rankings will be released weekly during the hockey offseason. This week, we’re doing top 10 centers for next season. There were many factors in deciding this list, but the main criteria were consistency, age, and the player’s injury history.
10. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Getzlaf has been fairly consistent in his 12-season career. The Ducks captain has had seven seasons with 70 points or more. He also has two seasons in the 60-point range and 49 points in 44 games in the lockout-shortened season in 2013. However, Getzlaf is also 32 years old, which isn’t young and adds risk for him to reach the 70-point mark again. That’s not a huge worry considering he is consistent.
9. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Scheifele had a career year with 82 points, seventh in the league. Before this season, Scheifele hadn’t gotten more than 62 points in his six seasons. This makes him the most inconsistent player on the list. Scheifele is only 23 years old and continues to improve. He will only get better in time, especially if he is on Patrick Laine’s line. Scheifele has been great on his own, but he’s even better with Laine on his side. They have great chemistry on the ice and should make for a dynamic duo for years to come in Winnipeg.
8 Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl will forever be known as Connor McDavid’s sidekick after this year. He isn’t too bad himself, with 77 points. Draisaitl finished 8th in the league in points. He’s technically not a center since he often plays on McDavid’s line. However, most sites count him as a center and a right winger, which is an added plus for the German. He also had 16 points in 13 playoff games and was able to give the Oilers another weapon. However, the only knock on Draisaitl is that we don’t know how good he can be without McDavid. He was okay in the 2015-2016 season with 51 points in 72 games, most of which when McDavid wasn’t around. I get the sense Draisaitl might be okay if he were to be moved to the second line and is worth the risk as a top-two round pick.
7 Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the NHL’s surprise teams last season. A lot of that success had to do with Matthews’ rookie season. With 40 goals and 29 assists, Matthews quickly became one of the league’s biggest stars in the league’s biggest market. The Arizona native isn’t reliant on the power play with 32 even-strength goals, the league leader. There is a chance that Matthews could have a sophomore slump but with a 14.3 shooting percentage, his production is likely to be sustainable. Toronto is one of the league’s most exciting teams, and Matthews will be in the forefront of it all.
6 Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Since Seguin has been on the Stars, he hasn’t produced less than 70 points in four seasons. This last season was his worst in Dallas yet, but he was still pretty good. He had 26 goals and 46 assists (72 points) in 82 games. This put him in the top 20 in the league. The Stars regressed from last season from the Central division winner to second to last in the division this season. It wasn’t because the forwards were struggling. A lot of the Stars’ problems came from the goaltending and defense, not Seguin. With goalie Ben Bishop in the fold and the new coach, Ken Hitchcock, teaching the young defensemen how to play, the Stars should be better, which will all help Seguin get back to what he is capable of.
5 John Tavares, New York Islanders
Tavares had a very bad first half of the season with 17 points by the end of November. A lot of that had to do with coach Jack Capuano of the Islanders. Once Capuano got fired, Tavares had 34 points in 40 games. He finished the year with 66 points, which isn’t bad considering his rough start. The Islanders captain has been very consistent in his eight seasons in New York with career points per game of .92, and he hasn’t hit his prime yet as a 26-year-old. He’s destined for a comeback season.
4 Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Although Malkin gets injured often, the future Hall of Famer is very consistent, when healthy. He has 832 points in 706 games, which makes for 1.17 career points per game. This season was no different with 72 points in 62 games or 1.16 points per game. Malkin never gets attention because he plays on Crosby’s line, but he should have really been considered as the top 100 players list. Malkin is worth the first round pick, even with the risk of him being injured.
3. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
Speaking of players that get overshadowed by their captain, Backstrom is sneakily one of the best players in the game. He had 86 points in a full season, which puts him fourth in the league in points. This was his second best season in the Swede’s nine-year career. His best season was in the 2008-2009 season with 88 points. The 29-year-old has 728 points in 734 career games, which puts him at .99 career points per game. 540 of those points were assists to his linemate, Alex Ovechkin. He does have an injury history but hasn’t missed a ton of games. This assists machine is a sure bet 1st round pick.
2 Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
It seems like Crosby has been in the league forever considering he came into the league when he was 18 years old. Crosby is 29 years old and will be playing in his 12th season in the fall. Crosby surpassed his 1,000th career point this season. He went through a rough patch under his former coach, Mike Johnston, but once Mike Sullivan was in charge, Crosby came back to what we are used to seeing. He’s still been very consistent throughout his career. This year, he had 89 points in 75 games, second in the league. Crosby does have a concussion history and suffered his third concussion in the second round of the playoffs, but he seems to be himself again in the last two rounds with 13 points in 12 games (as of June 9th). Crosby has reached that Jagr level, where it’s a marvel to watch him play as he ages. Crosby should be the unanimous first overall pick in all drafts if not for No. 1 on the list…
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
From one generational player to another. McDavid was injured in his rookie year but was still very impressive that year with 48 points in 45 games. This season he played his first full season and has captivated every hockey fan with 100 points (30 goals and 70 assists). He led the league in points for the entire season, and it wasn’t even close for most of the way. He’s a lock for the Hart trophy. He helped the Oilers make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. McDavid got help from guys like Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot, but McDavid is primarily responsible for the Oilers resurgence. McDavid is also still far from his prime yet at 20 years old. He already does everything well, offering a great shot, playmaking ability, and speed. He will be the top pick in every fantasy draft next season.
Would like to see more of: Jack Eichel (BUF), Mikael Granlund (MIN), Jake Guentzal (PIT), Nazem Kadri (TOR),
Too old: Joe Pavelski (SJ), Erik Staal (MIN), Jeff Carter (LA),
Injury-prone: Alexander Barkov (FLA), Steven Stamkos (TB)
Could bounce back: Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH)
These centers have more value, if you’re in a league with faceoff wins as a category.
Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Ryan O’Reilly (BUF), Ryan Kesler (ANA), Claude Giroux (PHI), Jonathan Toews (CHI), Matt Duchene (COL/Offseason Trade Bait)