Let’s take the 2014-15 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit into the realm of centres and their cheat sheet! Over the next week or two we will be finishing up the kit in grand style. Dakota Case, RotoRob and myself have been on the case. So while you breathe a sigh of relief over Sidney Crosby’s injury status, let’s peruse the top 51 players at his position — centre.
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 as they are going to garner a lot of attention — especially in deeper leagues.
The debate may not be Steven Stamkos vs. Sidney Crosby. The top 10 centres will almost do the same for you but it is those picks at 30, 40, and even 50 among our ranks that may just be the difference makers.
Depth at the centre position will play a role once again this season. In some cases, it can make or break your Fantasy hockey season. Let’s get down to business and serve up those rankings.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (2): With this, we probably just ticked off almost all of Canada, most Fantasy hockey players, and the entire Pittsburgh fan base. Oh well! The bottom line is that Stamkos lost a huge chunk of the season with a broken leg. It was one of the more graphic injuries you will ever see. Understandably, he took a while to get the offense in gear after his return. With a full summer of relentless training, Stamkos is ready to lead the league in points. When he’s not ripping a shot through a wedding cake (see video below), he can pot 50-to-60 goals as we have seen already. With an upgraded roster and improvements across the board (especially on the power play), the time is now.
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (1): At some point, Crosby has to be accountable for the postseason failures of the Penguins. If your wrist is injured, when do you take yourself out of the lineup or take less of a role? During the regular season, Crosby showed some signs of slowing down a bit (22 points in his last 20 games and a good bit of that was pre-injury). With a new coach and GM, a new system, and a few minor tweaks, Mr. Crosby should still do very well, but we are not convinced he will reach 100 points. It will be close. However, he may end up with more power play points.
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (3): A former playoff MVP and NHL scoring champion, Malkin has not taken over games or playoff series like he should. It was a big part of why the New York Rangers were able to come back and upend the Penguins. Again, Mike Johnston was brought in to change things up and Malkin’s power play totals should see a boost. They cannot get much lower at this point. Pittsburgh has to spread the wealth more in order to win. Can it do that? We are not entirely convinced, which means a high point total for Malkin.
4. John Tavares, New York Islanders (4): Tavares is nearly ready to join the top three and was well on his way to doing that last season before a knee injury suffered at the Olympics. With Kyle Okposo flanking him, Tavares has a more than capable wing man to take him to that next scoring level. With an advancing, youthful core, Tavares should set a career high in points this season and give Islander fans a true show for their final campaign in Nassau.
5. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (18): So Seguin barely scratched the surface with an 84-point campaign that vaulted Jamie Benn to the top 20 of many Fantasy lists. Seguin may be the closest player since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby to 50-50 talent. With the sizable upgrades Star GM Jim Nill has made, is 90 points for Seguin far fetched? It probably is not. With a duo so young, Seguin could easily dominate in Dallas for a decade. Think about that for a second and get back to us. In two or three years he could be the leading scorer in the NHL.
6. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (7): Last season Getzlaf returned to the level we are all accustomed to seeing him at and he even showed a penchant for scoring goals that had not been seen in a long time. His 31 goals and 87 points were proof of that excellent bounce back (90+ points if he had played all 82). Getzlaft also had seven GWGs and over 200 shots which was very encouraging. Anaheim probably won’t slow down that much, if at all, so proceed all guns blazing with that Getzlaf-Perry duo.
7. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (14): Alright! Let’s take another risk. The one thing Coach Barry Trotz’s system will be good for is that at the very least Washington should be a bit more disciplined. If the opportunities are there then the points should be also. If Backstrom scores on around 12 per cent or so of his shots, that should mean a boost to almost 25 goals. If he gets 60+ assists again, this ranking is not as far fetched with the extra power play points. Yet we still expect some hateful vindictiveness for this one.
8. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (9): Giroux would rank higher on this list, but he’ll be behind to start the season after suffering an early training camp injury This player is a star, but the problem is more will be expected out of him in Philadelphia this season. Can Giroux handle the pressure? No one knows the answer now but his offseason was an interesting one (all copping around aside). Who Giroux plays with may yet to be determined given the departure of Scott Hartnell. Giroux and Philadelphia will be in for an interesting — and quite possibly trying — season.
9. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (5): With the extension all done, it will be intriguing to see if Toews gets back to that 85-to-90 point projection we had him at last season. Okay, that did not quite work out. There is no reason why Toews should not have around 10 power play goals and at least 80 points per season if healthy. Granted, he does so many other things (many of which don’t show up on the stat sheet), but we see an uptick in scoring this season and that should make Fantasy fans happy.
10. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (10): Kopitar holds steady at 10 simply because of the Marian Gaborik effect. No, not really, but this did sound good. Los Angeles will play the same style but maybe with a hair more scoring. Kopitar also has the 10-10 in him (10+ PPGs and 10+ GWGs). That is very likable in Fantasy circles. His point total should come up this season.
11. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche (11): Duchene may have been the toughest one to slot simply because the numbers scream top 10, yet what will his ice time look like? Will Colorado be able to score like last season? Those are two major unanswered questions. Duchene will likely be paired with Ryan O’Reilly, but Colorado kind of has a 1A and 1B when it comes to centres with the rise of Nathan MacKinnon. Both will be right near the top 10 or in it for years to come. These two — at least — are certainly no flukes.
12. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (15): Bergeron is more the 1A than most think in Boston and this may be a season when he has more points than David Krejci. This is just one of those times when the hunch may be greater than the reality but hey risks are fun. Bergeron will score at least 30 again and be a +30 with nearly 250 shots on goal. That is hard to pass up and he makes a nice option after the top centres have gone.
13. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (33): The top pick won the Calder as best rookie going away and the sky is the limit. He had three goals on his first 69 shots but 21 over his next 173. The latter rate over an entire season is way more certain and even that may be conservative in time. Like Boston, Colorado has a 1A and 1B that is very advantageous. Ultimately the 1B will likely usurp the 1A in this case. Stay tuned!
14. David Krejci, Boston Bruins (30): Krejci will again centre Boston’s top line with Milan Lucic on one wing, but he’ll have a new right winger in Loui Eriksson after Jarome Iginla opted to sign with Colorado because of Boston’s cap issues. Krejci will come close to 45-to-50 assists again so with nearly 20 goals and a high +/-, he is still a Top 15 centre.
15. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (22): Thornton had his “C” stripped (in a rather douchy manner) but really it was nowhere near his fault. His consistency and ability to produce 50-to-60 assists (or more) is too good to pass up. The power play assists are always high and his numbers again just keep on keeping on. There are worse players to have and you know what you are getting with Thornton.
16. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (7): Injuries more than Father Time have caught up to Datsyuk recently and this season may be more of the same. What he still does with the puck is truly wizardry, but he was limited last season much like Henrik Zetterberg. The points and games should be up, but to say he will play 80 games is very questionable at this juncture.
17. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators (8): Spezza had a tough luck season and frankly so did Ottawa. However, he took the fall for a team that just was not that good generally and was horrid defensively. Most of the same pieces remain in Ottawa and yet Spezza ended up in Dallas which is an excellent move for him. The focus won’t be on him like it will be on Benn and Seguin. That is the perfect scenario and he may play with Ales Hemsky from time to time as they showed some chemistry last season.
18. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks (NR): Pavelski had been wing eligible for so long therefore you need to check your leagues to see where he slots. While he had a 79-point season, it is almost inevitable that his production backs up some this season. San Jose is in a state of flux and the effects will be felt. Pavelski will see some time as a third line centre from time to time and that will eat into his numbers. Yet three Shark centres will wind up in the top 25 which is crazy but true.
19. David Backes, St. Louis Blues (17): The durable Backes just keeps on producing on a very deep St. Louis team. Again the top six has a 1A and 1B kind of situation. His presence in front of the net is too good to pass up and that makes him Fantasy viable for those special teams abilities alone. More people need to get on the bandwagon here.
20. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (12): The Sedin twins may be past their prime when it comes to their monster seasons, but they still can produce some solid numbers. Throw out last season’s disaster for a second and assume that Sedin is still somewhere in the 60s when it comes to points. Vancouver will not nosedive in the second half and that should help.
21. Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets (NR): The hesitation to rank him even this high is based on the contract situation more than anything else. If this gets resolved quick, then we underrated him, but if it does not, then we are right on the money. Columbus is offering $3 million per season and Johansen’s agent wants a bit less than $5 milllion per season. At least they are closer now, but who knows what will happen just yet? Usually these situations resolve themselves… usually. There is no denying the talent and upside in Johansen, however.
22. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (16): This versatile player finds his way into the Top 25 once again as this may be the one dude that benefits the most from all the “change” in San Jose. Couture works hard and is relentless around the puck Even at a 60-to-65 point clip, he is more than efficient enough to get the job done. Couture’s ability on the power play may mean he really is the centre of the future in the land of the Sharks.
23. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks (19): Last season was a disaster for Kesler thanks to the “Tortorella Effect.” Kesler is going to be a lot more effective on the second line in Anaheim and the Ducks just keep on scoring even if luck should run out on them. At the very least, he is away from Vancouver and should see some solid point totals. Kesler just has to stay healthy.
24. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (24): “The Nuge” will be just fine as Edmonton’s first line should finally be ready to step up this season. Health concerns aside, at some point Nugent-Hopkins has to mature and a solid upswing is enough to keep him in the Top 25 especially with power play point potential. He will provide nice value in your draft — guaranteed.
25. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers (21): As of this writing, Stepan remains in our Top 25 by the slimmest of margins which means a shocker of sorts, Fantasy fans. Now, expect another solid season with his production capped perhaps because of line flux.
Others to Consider
26. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (13)
27. Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators (20)
28. Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres (27)
29. Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs (32)
30. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens (28)
31. Sam Gagner, Arizona Coyotes (25)
32. Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets (40)
33. Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils (37)
34. Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators (36)
35. Derick Brassard, New York Rangers (34)
36. Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs (39)
37. Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks (38)
38. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (21)
39. Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues (NR)
40. Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR)
41. Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (NR)
42. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (NR)
43. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR)
44. Nick Bonino, Anaheim Ducks (NR)
45. Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings (29)
46. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (26)
47. Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (NR)
48. Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild (NR)
49. Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes (NR)
50. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers (NR)
51. Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils (NR)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who is too high, or too low? Who’s missing?