The center position
is where you make your money, so you want to be sure and snag a superstar
here. The position is also very deep, so
you won't see a horrible drop off beyond the top ten. The other good news here, is that compared to
other positions, the top centers are fairly predictable from year to year. With few exceptions, you can draft these guys
with confidence that you'll get a great return on that early round
investment. Here are the top 10 to
target at your draft:
1. Steven Stamkos (TB)
Stamkos was well on
his way to collecting all the hardware last season when he stumbled
significantly in the 2nd half. Just remember, this kid is still 21 years old
and has another 15+ seasons to dominate the NHL. He's arguably the best sniper
in the league and still has plenty of talent around him in Tampa to set up
those one-timers. He should recover just fine and challenge for those trophies
again this season.
2. Sidney Crosby (PIT)
The biggest question
at this year's draft table will what to do in round 1 with Crosby. Don't expect
much clarity from the Pens to help your decision making. You just have to
choose if the benefit of getting the top talent in the league is worth the risk
of getting nothing if he doesn't return, or returns too late to help you. It's
a gamble, but in this case, it's probably one worth taking pretty early on.
3. Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
center, another potential first round gamble to consider. He's reported back to
full health and ready to return to dominance, entering his 6th NHL season. As
with Crosby, you have to weigh crazy potential against a history of injury. As with
Crosby, if he falls to me in the 2nd round, I'll take my chances.
4. Henrik Sedin (VAN)
If your league is
bullish on goals, you may be looking at the wrong Sedin. Otherwise, Henrik is
as safe a bet as any to lead your fantasy team to victory this season. He
hasn't missed a game in six straight seasons. He's topped 60 assists in the
last five seasons. And when Daniel gets a goal, he's sure to tally a point
(which is often).
5. Ryan Kesler (VAN)
Kesler offers the
complete package when it comes to fantasy value. Goals, assists, +/-, PIMS...
he's even become a power play demon, with 15 goals. You need game winners - how
about 7 last season? He's now turned in perfect attendance for 3 straight seasons.
What's not to like here?
6. Eric Staal (CAR)
Staal has been a
lonely superstar in Raleigh. If only he could find a superstar partner to work
with, he could challenge for a scoring title or two. Perhaps Jeff Skinner will
emerge as that man in the years to come, though Skinner's currently lining up as
the #2 center. For now, sleep easy drafting Staal, knowing you're guaranteed
about 30 goals and 70 points, with the potential for much, much more.
7. Anze Kopitar (LA)
The Kings are making
steady progress each season, and Kopitar is a huge part of that story. The
arrival of Mike Richards should take some of the pressure off of Kopitar's
line, as opponents will have to worry about two lines instead of one. His
season was cut short last spring with an ankle injury. He is expected to be
fully healed, along with linemate Justin Williams, but monitor his status
before drafting him too early.
8. Niklas Backstrom (WAS)
After three seasons
of steady progression up to the 100 point plateau, Backstrom's stats took a
dramatic tumble last season. Was/is the new Washington system too restrictive
on the creative center? Expect a return to stardom for both him and Ovechkin.
90 points are well within reason. He should slide to round 3. If you find him
there, take him.
9. Jonathan Toews (CHI)
Following his dream
season of 2010-11, Toews went out and set a new high in points (76), maintained
his stellar +/- rating (+26), added 10 power play goals, and 8 game winners.
Hard to beat what he brings in terms of consistent fantasy value. Look for a new
set of highs as he enters his 5th NHL season. Target 30 goals and 80 points.
10. John Tavares (NYI)
Islander fans have
patiently awaited the breakout of their overall #1 pick from two years back. At
times he has shown himself to be a top-tier goal scoring threat, but then he
goes cold for games at a time. He's just 20 years old and the talent around him
is getting better along with him. Expect that breakout season to come in
2011-12. Start the bidding at 40 goals.
- Joe Thornton (SJ)
- Matt Duchene (COL)
- Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
- Jeff Skinner (CAR)
- Brad Richards (NYR)
To see the rest of
my top 40 center rankings, visit: http://www.landsharkhockey.com/LS/tools/DraftRankings.aspx. You can also customize your own list there
and practice with our free mock drafting system.