2013-14 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit: Centre Rankings
Patrice Bergeron is fully healthy now.
By Chris Wassel and RotoRob
Let’s kick off the 2013-14 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit with everyone’s favourite – cheat sheets! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll rank each position and well as toss a few top 10 lists at you to help you prepare for the upcoming Fantasy hockey season. So while you wonder how Vincent Lecavalier will adjust to life in Philly, let’s examine the top 40 centres for the 2013-14 Fantasy hockey season.
The centre position is undoubtedly the deepest in Fantasy hockey. You likely can miss out on landing one of the top 10 and still fare pretty well in your Fantasy draft. No other position boasts that claim or can really come close. Be on the lookout for multi-positional players — especially down the middle — because they will be just a bit rarer this season.
Keep in mind that when we did up these rankings, we factored in that this is an 82-game schedule. We also considered realignment, a different scheduling matrix, and the fact that some players are still not signed or may be hurting. Furthermore, the debate may not be Steven Stamkos vs. Sidney Crosby. It may just turn out to be guys like Jordan Staal or Travis Zajac. That is how competitive Fantasy hockey has become.
Depth at the centre position will play a role no matter what. In some cases, it can make or break your Fantasy hockey season. Let’s get to those rankings.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (3): After that embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Bruins last season, Crosby is driven to erase that painful memory. Of course, what he really needs is a stretch of good health after the nightmare of the last few seasons. Sid the Kid showed flashes of regaining his goal scoring touch last season and it will be interesting to see if he’s playing with Jussi Jokinen or Beau Bennett – whoever of which stands to get a major Fantasy boost. Look what he did for Pascal Dupuis last season. Regardless of who is playing with him, Crosby is the best component of what is the top group of forward talent in the NHL. And in case you forget what Crosby is capable of doing for the Penguins, refresh your memory with the video below.
2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (2): Stamkos should be a key component of Team Canada’s forward group at the 2014 Olympics. He’s among the most durable players in the game and while his shooting percentage dipped last season, he remains one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. Last season, he slotted nicely on a line with Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone. This season, will Stamkos take the “C” in Tampa Bay from the departed Vincent Lecavalier? For Stamkos’s money, that honour should go to St. Louis. Stay tuned.
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (1): A former playoff MVP and NHL scoring champion, Malkin has also dealt with injuries the past few years and last season, he regressed to a lackluster +5 showing. The good news is that, like Crosby, he also sounds very driven to erase last season’s bitter ending for the Penguins (although Malkin was among the playoff scoring leaders before the Pens got knocked out).
4. John Tavares, New York Islanders (6): The newly appointed captain of the Islanders has been extremely durable in his career to date and really the only thing missing from his game is he doesn’t kill penalties. The Isles are strong at center, but Tavares is really the only fantasy stud in the group.
5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (13): Heading into last season, when we slotted Toews inside the top 15 of our Centre Rankings, we wondered if he could regain his scoring touch. Mission accomplished, as he went over a point per game for the first time. At the age of 25, the captain of the Blackhawks may have upside, but he’s already reached 25 assists in all six of his seasons (including last year’s lockout shortened campaign). Toews is signed for the next two years, but don’t be shocked if Chicago tries to pen him to an extension before he gets really expensive.
6. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (9): The shortened season was supposed to affect veterans more than youngsters, but someone forgot to tell 35-year-old Datsyuk, who bounced back in the goal department to get back over a point per game pace. He’ll again centre Detroit’s top line with usual winger Henrik Zetterberg and new linemate Justin Abdelkaber, who is sure to be a nice Fantasy sleeper with this promotion. For a while last season it seemed like it was just Datsyuk and Zetterberg who were scoring on the power play for the Wings.
7. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (16): Getzlaf got an eight-year extension last year, and immediately started to earn it by bouncing back with his scoring and returning to being better than a point per game dude. The Ducks’ captain really rewarded the Ducks’ faith after such a down season in 2011-12.
8. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators (7): Spezza got hurt early last season, missing almost the entire season. For a while it looked like he’d be back in March, but didn’t return until the playoffs. He’s a point per game player that will again centre the Sens top line with Milan Michalek and newcomer Bobby Ryan on his wings. Ryan’s presence will make the entire line more dangerous and watching the chemistry develop here should be fun.
9. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (4): Giroux would rank higher on this list, but he’ll be behind to start the season after needing surgery to repair his hand, injured while… golfing. Seriously? This kid has established himself as a star, but his helper count was down significantly last season, and his shooting percentage has been in decline for the past two years. There’s a 100-point season in Giroux’s future, but he’ll be hard pressed to do it this season considering he can’t even grip a hockey stick right now.
10. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (10): Kopitar had a tough time bulging the twine last season and it sure didn’t help that he had exactly zero goals on the power play. Still, the Yugoslavian is an exciting player and will be one of the key dudes to watch in the Olympics next year.
11. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche (34): Duchene enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2012-13, seeing a massive uptick in PT. “Duchy” isn’t the best defensive player in the league, but we’re expecting another step forward now that Ryan O’Reilly has been shifted to the wing to play alongside him and P.A. Parenteau.
12. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (5): The Sedin twins may not get as many chances with John Tortorella now behind the bench in Vancouver. Henrik has been extremely durable, but is in definite decline over the past few seasons, a trend which continued last year despite more shots on goal. The twins are rumored to be in line for a contract extension that will make them career Canucks, but perhaps they might want to get a taste of life under Tortorella before committing.
13. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (15): Staal has stayed healthy the past few seasons and last year he really upped his helper count, topping the point per game mark for the first time since his second season. He suffered a knee injury this summer, but reports suggest he’s fully healthy. Whether the knee holds up to game conditions, however, remains to be seen, so keep your eyes on Staal in the preseason.
14. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (12): After an injury-shortened 2011-12, Backstrom stayed healthy last year and was back to his assist logging ways. It’ll be interesting to see him match up for Sweden against linemate Alex Ovechkin of Russia in the Olympics.
15. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (26): Bergeron got seriously beat up in the playoffs, suffering torn rib cartilage, a broken rib, a separated shoulder and a punctured lung that collapsed and sent him to the hospital for three days. Yet, he’s fully healthy now and ready to try to bounce back after a season in which he struggled to find the back of the net despite having significantly more shots on goal.
16. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (24): This versatile centre may get a chance to represent Canada at the Olympics after another fine season. We’re hoping to see more PP points from Couture this season – or at least a continuation of his colourful Twitter personality.
17. David Backes, St. Louis Blues (24 at RW): The durable Backes could be part of what’s looking like a Gold medal contending Team USA at the Olympics next year. His +/- has regressed the past couple of seasons, but the former USHL star remains a solid two-way player.
18. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (17): One of the two first round picks (second overall, 2010) that the Bruins received from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade, Seguin is a serious talent, but thanks to some maturity issues, he wore out his welcome in Beantown and was dealt to Dallas this summer in the Loui Eriksson trade. He’s been durable, but took a step back last season after a big sophomore season. Here’s hoping a fresh start on the Stars helps Seguin take it to the next level.
19. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks (NR): Last year was a disaster for Kesler as injuries destroyed his season. He’s 100 percent now and sounds driven to be a huge factor this season, so consider him a bit of a sleeper this low in the rankings. We’ll see how the emotional pivot takes to being coached by the fiery Tortorella.
20. Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes (NR): With its ownership situation finally settled, Phoenix signed Ribeiro this summer and plans to play him on its top line with Mikkel Boedker.
21. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers (NR): As of this writing, Stepan remains unsigned, so the restricted free agent has opted to not report to camp for now. The team is trying to get a deal done, so we’re confident he’ll be back soon.
22. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (14): Thornton dealt with some family issues this summer that forced him to miss the Canadian Olympic camp. He’s in his contract year, so we can see Jumbo Joe bouncing back to near point per game production this season.
23. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (21): Koivu stayed healthy last season after a couple of injury-shortened seasons and now that he’s adjusted to Zach Parise, we’re expecting a bounce back in his numbers.
24. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (19): Hopkins’s 2012-13 season ended a bit early with a shoulder injury and he was unable to build on that fantastic rookie season. The surgery he needed will keep him out until the start of November, hence his low ranking here. Had RNH been healthy, he’d easily be a top 15 centre.
25. Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers (NR): Gagner signed a three-year, $14.4-million extension this summer. Now it’s time for him to live up to the new deal.
26. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (NR): After a fine season in which he was named the league’s top rookie, we’re expecting even better things from this talented youngster this year. He’s already recovered from offseason hip surgery and is ready to take his game to the next level.
27. Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres (NR): The Sabres just re-signed Hodgson to a six-year, $24.5-million deal after he manned the middle on the team’s top line last season. This kid has the potential to be a great player, so Buffalo was prudent to lock him up long term.
28. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens (NR): After spreading it around the past few seasons, Plekanec looked for his own last year, improving his goals per game average from the previous season. This faceoff specialist needs to produce like a No. 1 centre before we bump him up this list.
29. Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings (25): Richards did much better in the assist department in his second season in LA, and he managed to stay healthy, to boot. He’s been worth the investment the Kings made so far, helping them win a Cup two years ago, and having a more productive season in 2012-13.
30. David Krejci, Boston Bruins (35): Krejci will again centre Boston’s top line with Milan Lucic on one wing, but he’ll have a new right winter in Jarome Iginla after long time linemate Nathan Horton opted to bolt to Columbus.
31. Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers (NR): Lecavalier landed in Philly after Tampa Bay bought out the final seven seasons of that huge 11-year deal it signed him to. His goal production has been in decline for the past couple of years.
32. Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs (NR): After his breakout year last season, Kadri was hoping for a long-term deal. He only got a two-year contract, so will have to top his 2012-13 campaign to earn the real big bucks.
33. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (NR): The top pick in this year’s draft is not only going to stick in the NHL this season – he’s going to be a big part of the club from the get-go.
34. Derick Brassard, New York Rangers (NR): Brassard is a key component in the package the Rangers got in the Marian Gaborik deal this offseason.
35. Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings (30): After spending his entire career playing for a lot of losing teams in Florida, Weiss was lured to Detroit by the chance at winning.
Others to Consider
36. Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators (NR): Turris stayed healthy last season.
37. Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils (NR): Zajac is hoping to bounce back after a down season.
38. Brad Richards, New York Rangers (11): Richards is hoping a new coach really means the slate is clean after last season.
39. Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs (NR): If Bozak gets separated from Kessel this season, it could hurt his production.
40. Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets (NR): The former OHL star was a nice source of assists last season.