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2011-12 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit: Centre Rankings

September 22, 2011 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Anze Kopitar has become a serious force for the Los Angeles Kings.
Anze Kopitar keeps soaring up the rankings.

By Chris Wassel and RotoRob

And we’re back with more of the 2011-12 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit, with the release of another cheat sheet today. So while you wonder how Sheldon Souray will do now that he’s back in the NHL, let’s peruse our picks for the top 39 centres in Fantasy hockey.

The uncertainty of Sidney Crosby’s true condition offers some intrigue to the centre position that was not there before. You drafted Crosby and then added some depth and smiled. Now some thought has to be given about whether you want a Steven Stamkos or Henrik Sedin type. You can get a dual threat like Pavel Datsyuk as well. However, there will not be the guy (Crosby) that could have easily garnered you 110-to-120 points. I would suggest that 105 points is probably the most you see out of any centre this season, but the depth is still there. When looking at centres, you can get quite lucky once you get out of the top five.

This position has so many players in the 70-to-85 point range it’s not funny. So relax and just think before drafting. Take one Tier One centre and then slide down for depth if you have to. You won’t regret it. The key in drafts is to realize centre is a position of relative depth and if one of your guys plays another forward position, it’s just a bonus. Keep that in mind.

Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (5): Stamkos was clearly the most valuable centre in Fantasy hockey last season and he’s the consensus top pivot off the board this season as well. This dude’s been extremely durable and has now recorded back-to-back seasons of at least 45 goals. His shooting percentage wasn’t quite as off the charts as it was in 2009-10, but Stamkos is definitely at the top of a deep group of Lightning forwards.

2. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (3): A year ago, Sedin pierced the top five, and this season he’s even closer to the top spot on this coveted list as he’s become universally accepted as the second best centre in Fantasy hockey and worthy of being one of the first five forwards off the board. Okay, so he only finished fourth in scoring after winning the Art Ross the season before, but this ironman played every single game for the sixth straight season, managing his second straight 75-assist effort as he led the league in helpers for the second straight time. Sedin’s penalty minute total was at its lowest since 2003-04, but he was a beast when Vancouver was on the man advantage, racking up 35 of his points on the power play.

3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (9): After almost slipping out of the top 10 a year ago, Datsyuk is back firmly as a top five centre. Injuries cost him 26 games and also a shot at a fourth straight Selke Trophy, but he was back as a point per game player last season. Datsyuk won’t give you any penalty minutes, but he has a definite knack for coming up with the huge goal when the Wings need it. This dude is an elite talent, and if he stays healthy this season, watch his point total soar back over 90. Note that Yahoo! inexplicably also lists Datsyuk at LW even though he’s clearly a C.

4. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (4): The loss of Malkin, plus that Crosby dude, made Dan Bylsma’s Jack Adams Trophy as top coach all the more deserving. We all know what Malkin is capable of when he’s healthy and on his game. Remember the 2009 Easter Conference Finals? The knee injury that cost him almost half of last season translated into his first sub 25-goal campaign and just a measly five PPG. It’s worth noting that even before the injury, Malkin was not enjoying a good season, but we’re banking on him wiping that memory away this season.

5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (12): Kopitar just keeps climbing the rankings. He was No. 16 two years ago, moved up to 12 last season and now he’s reached top five status among centres. Kopitar’s ankle injury last March doomed the Kings from potentially making some serious noise in the playoffs and also snapped his ironman streak just shy of four straight seasons. He still managed his third straight 25-goal season, while shattering his personal best with a robust +25 ranking. Kopitar saw a little less ice time last season, and now that the Kings have added more depth in their forward ranks, that trend is likely to continue. But with wingers Dustin Penner and Justin Williams likely flanking him this season, a healthy Kopitar is poised to enjoy his first season of better than a point per game. Mark it down.

6. Brad Richards, New York Rangers (18): After ranking as a top 20 centre a year ago, Richards is now knocking on the door of the top five after another big season in Dallas. The 31-year-old is one of the best playmakers in the game and was handsomely rewarded with a nine-year, $60-million deal from the Rangers for whom he’ll centre the top line and play with Marian Gaborik. It’s still unclear who will play left wing on this line, but Ruslan Fedotenko is the latest name being bandied about.

7. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (1): Perhaps you heard a thing or two about Crosby’s concussion woes that limited him to half a season in 2010-11. Even so, he set a new career high with a +20 ranking and reached double digit power goals for the second straight season. Just imagine what Sid the Kid would have done had he not had his bell rung twice. Crosby is likely to miss the start of the season as he continues to recover. At this point, we can only pray that his Golden Goal at the 2010 Olympics won’t be the final wonderful memory of his career.

8. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (8): After averaging more than a point per game for the fourth straight season, Getzlaf proceed to rack up six points in six playoff games last spring as the Ducks were knocked out by the Predators. His penalty minute total has plummeted in each of the past two seasons, but he continued to be an excellent playmaker on the power play. With an MVP on one wing (Corey Perry) and a player with potentially even more upside on the other (Bobby Ryan), Getzlaf will again be racking up the points for your Fantasy squad.

9. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (11): Toews, who could now potentially be teammates with his younger brother David, managed to reach 80 games for the second time last season, and enjoyed a bit of a breakthrough offensively while posting a career-best +25 ranking. He was an absolute beast on the PP, scoring 10 goals and setting up another 15, and it will be interesting to see if he’s again paired with Patrick Kane or will play alongside Marion Hossa instead.

10. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (2): After blowing up for his first 100-point season in 2009-10, Backstrom fell back to earth last season. Not only did he fail to play every game for the first time in his four-year career, but he endured his lowest point total as an NHLer. Hell, even his modest PM total slipped. Still, Backstrom is a big part of an offensive powerhouse, and he’s plenty young enough to not only bounce back, but surpass what he accomplished two seasons ago.

11. Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils (3 at LW): Parise missed plenty of action, which contributed mightily to the Devils’ first-half woes. New Devil coach Pete DeBoer plans to have New Jersey play a more up-tempo game which could be great news for Fantasy owners of the team’s players. Thanks to a torn knee, Parise played just one game after October 30 and he was held without a PPG for the first time in his career. But we all know that when healthy, he is the most prominent player on the Devils, so don’t let him slide too far in your draft. (Parise is also listed in our LW rankings; he may qualify at C again this season.)

12. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (7): Staal was a top 10 centre a year ago, but he’s slipped out of that group this season after enduring a career worst -10 last season. Hell, Staal deserves to slide just for giving his brother Marc a concussion that he still hasn’t fully recovered from. The other reason we’re a bit less bullish on Staal this season is because his winger Erik Cole is gone, and not only does that mean less scoring power, but also he also loses a player that cleared a lot of space for him.

13. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (21): Koivu suddenly has a legitimate scorer on his wing in Dany Heatley, while the other wing will be occupied by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, one of our sleeper picks for this season. Even though he missed time last season, Koivu still posted a third straight 45-assist season. Now, with a goal scorer beside him, how high can that total rise? After setting a career high with 66 PM three seasons ago, Koivu’s total has levelled off the past two years, and he didn’t get as many helpers on the PP as usual – another thing that should change with Heatley aboard. The Wild’s captain is hell-bent on getting Minnesota back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, so don’t be surprised if this is the season he breaks through as a point-per-game man.

14. Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings (16): The Kings needed offensive depth and they went out and got it by acquiring Flyers’ captain Mike Richards. While his goal total dipped to its lowest level since 2006-07 and he only managed five goals on Philly’s inexplicably ineffective PP, Richards is still capable of being a superb leader and I’m confident the change of scenery will do him well. Things had run their course in Philadelphia, and he was part of a serious housecleaning by the Flyers; the Kings are only too willing to be the beneficiary of this exercise.

15. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (6): When we put Thornton in the top 10 last year, we said he was lock for 90 points annually. Oops. The Sharks gave him an extension last October and then he goes out and proceeds to put up his lowest point total since 2001-02 despite reaching 80 games for the seventh time in his career. The Sharks still have a potent offense, but Thornton is no longer an automatic point-per-game player, apparently.

16. Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets (13): Long rumoured to be on the trading block in Philly, Carter was told by the Flyers he wouldn’t be dealt. And then he was. Now he’s got something to prove a season after playing at least 80 games for the fourth time and reaching 30 assists for the second time. Carter has never been afraid to fire the puck, ranking third in shots on goal last season even though on a deep Flyer team, he saw the least amount of ice time per game since his rookie season.

17. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks (14): As we discussed last year when we ranked Marleau in the top 15, his positional flexibility adds to his value. He was unable to duplicate his huge 2009-10 goal output, but still paced the Sharks in goals last season. The speedy Marleau also played a pivotal role on the San Jose PP, picking up 15 assists to go along with his 11 tallies with the man advantage. He is also listed in our LW rankings, which are coming shortly.

18. Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres (NR): Just before Christmas, Roy suffered a quad injury that cost him the final 46 games of the regular season and the playoffs. It was a real shame, as he was back to being a point per game player for the first time since 2007-08. The injury ensured that his streak of leading the Sabres in scoring was snapped at three straight seasons. Expect him to start a new run this season, assuming he can avoid a serious health woe.

19. Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks (NR): A couple of weeks ago, Sharp had an emergency appendectomy, but he’s says he’ll be ready when the season starts, so don’t lower him on your cheat sheets. He’s feeling better, and should be hitting the ice shortly. With the Hawks losing a lot of depth last season, Sharp saw more ice time than ever, and he responded by cracking 70 points for the first time in his career.

20. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning (19): Last season, we pegged Lecavalier as a bust and we hope you were listening. A busted right hand limited him to 65 games, although he still managed to reach 25 goals for the eighth time. Lecavalier was a -5, but that was actually a major improvement over the season before. But here’s the real question: why so few shots? Levacalier averaged almost 3.6 shots per game two seasons ago, but less than three and a quarter per game in 2010-11. He still has the knack for the big goal and remains part of the team’s most gifted offensive weapon, but it’s become more and more clear that 2006-07 was the outlier for Vinny.

Others to Consider

21. Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers (23)
22. David Krejci, Boston Bruins (NR)
23. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (NR)
24. John Tavares, New York Islanders (20)
25. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (NR)
26. Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues (NR)
27. Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche (17)
28. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators (10)
29. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche (NR)
30. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes (NR)
31. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens (30)
32. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks (24)
33. Brandon Dubinsky, New York Rangers (NR)
34. Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers (NR)
35. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks (28)
36. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (NR)
37. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings (26) (Also listed in our RW rankings)
38. Nik Antropov, Winnipeg Jets (27)
39. Tim Connelly, Toronto Maple Leafs (29)

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