2016 NHL Draft Guide: Top 20 Centers
The Fantasy Alarm NHL Draft Guide breaks down the top 20 centers for the 2016-17 fantasy hockey season.
In most fantasy hockey leagues that require a certain amount of players per position, it is fairly difficult to win without strength at the center position. Of the top-20 scorers in the NHL last season, nine played predominantly at center. There could have been even more centers at the top of the scoring list but for injuries. These days, a lot of coaches are asking centers to play deeper in their own zone. That hurts their fantasy value. However, the center remains the top playmaker on most NHL teams, so offense is usually generated down the middle of the ice. Here are the 20 best bets at center for fantasy hockey drafts this year:
1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
He was the top scoring center last season, despite an awful start to 2015-16 under former Penguins coach Mike Johnston. Crosby's game took off when Mike Sullivan was hired, so expect more of the same this season.
2. Tyler Seguin (C/RW), Stars
He has been a bit brittle the last two seasons, which has probably cost him at least one scoring title. Still, Seguin is a points machine and the most dynamic scorer on one of the top offenses in the NHL these days in Dallas.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals
The slick Russian tied for ninth in NHL scoring last season, despite averaging the least amount of ice time among the top 20 scorers. If he plays with Alex Ovechkin and is a regular on the first power play unit, look out!
4. Connor McDavid, Oilers
It may not be much longer before McDavid lands at the top of this list. For now, he is No. 4 with a bullet. Last season, McDavid's points-per-game average was better than anyone except Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn!
5. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The emergence of Evgeny Kuznetsov has now given Capitals coach Barry Trotz options for the first line alongside captain Alex Ovechkin. However, Backstrom is a very consistent performer regardless of his linemates.
6. John Tavares, Islanders
In 2015-16, Tavares' regular-season totals were good (70 points in 78 games) but his playoff performance was spectacular (11 points in 11 games). If he picks up where he left off last spring, he will move up this list.
7. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
Somewhat of a forgotten man in Pittsburgh due to Crosby's presence and the emergence of the 'HBK' third line last season, Malkin is a former scoring champion looking to get back to his dominant scoring ways in '16-17.
8. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks
The veteran of 11 NHL seasons had trouble scoring goals in 2015-16 (13) but tied for seventh in assists with 50. He is showing signs of decline at age 31, but is still among the most reliable centers in fantasy hockey.
9. Anze Kopitar, Kings
Not only is Kopitar the Kings' top scorer, he is also extremely durable (he has missed only 12 games in his last 9 seasons). In leagues that count the plus/minus category, Kopitar should move up this list quite a bit.
10. Joe Thornton, Sharks
This future Hall-of-Famer is now 37 years old but still capable of producing at a point-per-game clip, which is what he did last season. He also added 21 points in 24 postseason contests. Just don't ask him to score goals.
11. Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The big Finn could have won the Panthers' scoring title last season but missed 16 games due to injury. The towering center is just 21, so the sky appears to be the limit with regards to his future fantasy value.
12. Sean Monahan, Flames
He is the man in the middle of Calgary's top scoring line (anchored by dynamic superstar Johnny Gaudreau). Therefore, Monahan should continue to have plenty of opportunities to pad his scoring (and fantasy) stats.
13. Nathan MacKinnon (C/RW), Avalanche
Speedy MacKinnon can play both wing and center but, either way, is at the heart of Colorado's offense. He is entering Year 4 in the NHL, which could be his major breakthrough campaign. Is this the year he turns elite?
14. Steven Stamkos (C/RW), Lightning
In leagues where goals are worth more than assists, Stamkos should vault to the top of this list. Otherwise, he is hurt a little bit by the fact Tampa Bay has a very well balanced offense. He is also returning from a blood clot.
15. Mark Scheifele, Jets
Very quietly, Scheifele produced 61 points in 71 games last season (his third full campaign in Winnipeg). He should be even better in 2016-17, especially if he clicks with potential rookie of the year Patrik Laine.
16. Derick Brassard, Senators
Brassard was arguably the Rangers' most consistent performer last season, so it was a little surprising to see him shipped to Ottawa over the summer. He will be reunited with Guy Boucher, his former junior coach.
17. Ryan Johansen, Predators
Big Johansen came as advertised last season as the big No. 1 center Nashville needed for years. His production spiked a bit after the trade from Columbus, a trend that may continue in 2016-17. A career season may be next?
18. Claude Giroux, Flyers
A hip ailment, as well as a more defensive approach in Philadelphia, dropped Giroux to a tie for 19th in NHL scoring last season. Still, he is one of the most dynamic weapons in the NHL, especially on the power play.
19. Matt Duchene (C/W), Avalanche
Whether he plays center or wing, Duchene's speed is a major offensive weapon. Coming off his first 30-goal campaign, the 25-year-old's wheels should continue to translate into quality fantasy production.
20. Jack Eichel, Sabres
In keeper leagues, Eichel would move past virtually all other centers (except maybe only Crosby and McDavid). His fantasy ceiling is through the roof, and for 2016-17 expect steady increases in his overall totals.