OTH Top 31 NHL Centers

Over the next few weeks, Overtime Heroics will be releasing rankings of the top NHL players in each position. First up is our consensus picks for the top 31 centers currently in the NHL.

1. Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid. Image by Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d) via Flickr

Getting over six number one votes, Connor McDavid has been ruled the number one center by Overtime Heroics. Coming off of his fourth season in the NHL, McDavid has been dominant. The 22-year-old superstar just came off a 116 point season and is always a treat to watch on the ice. It’s no question that the Oilers captain will be a lock here for a very long time.

2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby. Image by Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d) via Flickr

Getting a lot of number two votes and even a number one vote, Sidney Crosby was very close to getting number one in front of McDavid. Crosby is arguably the best player of his time. The 32-year-old has powered past injury concerns, as well as age, to put up another 100 point season. He may have lost the number one spot to McDavid, but he’s still one of the best in the league.

3. Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon. Image by Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d) via Flickr

Nathan MacKinnon continued his dominance this season, with 99 points, helping the Avalanche look like a real contender. It’s no wonder he’s so high on our list. Nine out of the 10 voters we had put him in their top five. MacKinnon got a #1 vote, and a lot of #2 and #3 votes as well. The 23-year-old has risen to the top of the league, expect many more years of MacKinnon and the Avalanche.

4. Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins

This list would not be complete without Patrice Bergeron, who played his 1000th game last season. Being on the Bruins’ top line, he continues to succeed in scoring goals that got the Bruins to the Finals of the Stanley Cup. Bergeron is on a roll in his career and even at the age of 34, this center’s career is far from over. 

5. Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning

A couple of years ago, saying Steven Stamkos would become a better player than he was then would’ve been insane. How does a guy that scored sixty goals put up more points? A shift in his career playing beside Nikita Kucherov answers that question. A career-high 98 points impressed enough to garner enough votes to propel him to fifth on our list. After a disappointing end to their season, expect Stamkos and the hungrier Tampa Bay Lightning to make another push at their most coveted goal. A contract above market value. Oh, and the Stanley Cup.

6. John Tavares – Toronto Maple Leafs

John Tavares has been regarded as one of the best players in the league since he was drafted in 2009. Nine seasons in Long Island made him a fan favorite, leading the team in scoring in all but two of his seasons there. That all changed, when on July 1, 2018, he made a big decision. He was coming home. Tavares reached career highs in goals and points beside Mitch Marner, in one of the scariest duos in the league. His season earned him a number of 4th place votes and lands him here.

7. Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s safe to say Auston Matthews is one of the best goalscorers in the league. At 21, Matthews has been one of the most exciting Maple Leafs to watch in each of the three seasons he’s played. Injury trouble has limited him the past two seasons, but he still manages to put up 30+ goals and was on pace for almost 45 goals last season. Matthews’ 2018-19 campaign put him as high as 5th place, and most of his votes were in the 6-10th place range. Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to wreak havoc on the league for years to come… or at least make it out of the first round.

8. Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers

Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov has been one of the brightest spots on the Panthers for years now. This season though, he took it up a notch. The 23-year-old was on fire this season, with 96 points, good for 10th in the league. Barkov’s offensive capabilities aren’t the only thing that scares opponents. He’s been talked about as one of the best two-way players in the league, and his 5th place in Selke voting pretty much cements it. Barkov has been talked about as one of the most underrated players in the league, and a good chunk of our voters would argue he’s underrated on our list. Barkov received votes up to 3rd place and had a lot of voters place him in the 4-7 range. Barkov and the suddenly competitive Panthers will almost certainly make their mark this season.

9. Sebastian Aho – Carolina Hurricanes

Sebastian Aho was arguably the second most fun to watch on the ice, behind the Storm Surge, of course. Aho led the Hurricanes in points and goals, helping them to the Conference Finals, where they fell to the Boston Bruins. His 83 point season launched him up to multiple top ten nods from our voters. After a brief stint as a Montreal Canadien, Aho, along with the Hurricanes, look to once again make an impact in the playoffs this season. At 22, this almost certainly won’t be the last time we see him up here. 

10. Ryan O’Reilly – St Louis Blues

Ryan O’Reilly had an outstanding season in his first season as a Blue. We all knew he was a reliable 60 point player for the past seven seasons, but after a trade to the Blues, he took it up a notch. His 77 points helped carry the team from the bottom of the standings to the playoffs. O’Reilly was a key part of the Blues core that ended up winning the Stanley Cup and was named Playoffs MVP. The 28-year-old got a significant amount of votes up at 9-13th, placing him around here. Scoring isn’t the only thing he does. O’Reilly won the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward this season, adding to his trophy case, which got a lot bigger after this season. He’ll lead the Blues as they attempt to defend their title, going for the repeat.

11.  Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin had a great season for the Stars, reaching the 80 point mark for the second time in his career. Seguin led the team in scoring as they pushed into the second round, only to be defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champs in the St. Louis Blues. His performance got him votes as high as 8th place, with a significant number of top ten votes. Seguin, alongside Jamie Benn, as well as recent UFA acquisition Joe Pavelski , will come back hungrier and could lead the Stars as one of the best teams in the league. At 27, Seguin still has time to prove that he can improve, and could do a lot better this season.

12. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins

Evgeni Malkin is without a doubt one of the best players of all time, and he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame after he retires. Malkin hit the 70 point mark for the tenth time last season. Forming arguably one of the best one-two center duos alongside Sidney Crosby, Malkin has been dominant for the last decade. This season, his 72 points in 68 games made the majority of his votes come in the 10-15th place range. After a frustrating loss in the first round last season, Malkin and the Penguins look to add to their three Stanley Cups from the Crosby/Malkin era. 

13. Mark Scheifele – Winnipeg Jets

Mark Scheifele is pretty well-known for being a “Hockey Nerd”, but it looks like that doesn’t hurt…at all. Scheifele had his second 80 point season playing on the Jets’ top line. His 84 point season got him votes as high as 11th place. Scheifele is still 26, and with the Jets still youngish, and hungrier than ever, it’s hard to say we won’t see more of Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets.

14.  Jack Eichel – Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel is one of the least talked about young stars in the league. With the mostly mediocre Sabres, Eichel had a career year, with 82 points in 77 games, leading the team. His season got him up to 9th place among our voters. As the Sabres are slowly doing a great job at retooling, it won’t be long before Eichel, along with guys like Rasmus Dahlin, make a push for the playoffs.

15. Brayden Point – Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point has really lived up to his name so far. The 23-year-old has been great the past two seasons, but this last season, he really broke out. His 92 points in 72 games helped carry the powerhouse Lightning all the way to the top of the standings. Point’s outstanding season had voters putting him up all the way to 4th place. Overall though, his votes were in the 10-15th place ballpark. Point is still young, and with his play already being so great, he’ll be a treat to watch for years to come.  

16. Mathew Barzal – New York Islanders

Mat Barzal was a pleasant surprise for Islanders fans in his rookie season, which saw him win the Calder Trophy for best rookie. This past season, on a Long Island team minus John Tavares, Barzal’s points dropped, but he still led a strong Islanders team to the playoffs. Barzal is 22, and now that he’s taken a bigger role in the organization, he has the opportunity to run with it. Barzal will likely be a star with the Islanders, and he’ll be exciting to watch as he does so.

17. Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks 

Jonathan Toews is a household name. He’s won it all, he’s done it all. Still, somehow, he’s doing even better! One of the best defensive forwards in the league, Toews hasn’t had trouble scoring either, almost always getting 50-60+ points. This season, the 31 year old took it up a notch. He had 81 points this season, a new career-high. Toews’ season put him everywhere on our list. Some people had him at 9th, while others had him dead last. With a Hawks team that looks like it could compete, Toews might be able to do it again.

T-18. Dylan Larkin – Detroit Red Wings

Dylan Larkin has quietly been a great player on a Red Wings team that just isn’t talked about. After beating the record for fastest skater at the All-Star Game a few years ago, Larkin became more well known. After a down season, Larkin broke the 60 point mark, and this season, got 73. Larkin’s season earned him one vote in the top ten, but the rest placed him closer to the bottom ten. Larkin is 23, and there’s no doubt that he’s a star on the Red Wings. It’s very likely we see him improve soon enough.

T-18. Nicklas Backstrom – Washington Capitals 

Nicklas Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. On a team with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, he’s quietly been a reliable 70 point guy. Backstrom’s 74 point performance had him as high as 15th place. The former 100 point player is 31, but with Washington still looking like contenders, Backstrom probably ends up doing it again.

20. Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks 

Elias Pettersson had an amazing rookie season that exceeded everyone’s expectations. He won Rookie of the Year with his 68 point effort, leading the Canucks in points, goals, and assists. He’s a delight to watch on the ice, and he’s only 20 years old! Pettersson highlights a stronger group of Canucks heading into next season, and he’s shown us that he has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Pettersson got votes as high as 16th, but there’s no doubt he’ll be higher in the years to come.

21. Sean Couturier – Philadelphia Flyers  

Sean Couturier has given the Flyers almost 10 years of great hockey. His stats have been solid his whole career. His breakout story started two seasons ago when he was moved to center and was able to show his abilities, helping the Flyers get into the playoffs. Couturier repeated his effort last season, and at 26 years old, we should see a bigger showing from him in this upcoming season provided that the coach keeps him where he is at. Couturier has been considered by some to be one of the best in the league, and our voters had him up at 8th place. Most of his votes were consistently in this range, but it’s not farfetched to say his position could change after this season.

22. Matt Duchene – Nashville Predators

Matt Duchene has been considered one of the best centers in the NHL since he came into the league in 2009. He made his name with the Colorado Avalanche, and in parts of nine seasons there, he was able to hit 70 points, while cementing himself as a reliable 50+ point center. Everything shifted after the infamous trade to the Ottawa Senators, a trade that ended up costing the Senators a possible lottery pick. After a less than perfect first season in Ottawa, Duchene was ready to have a bounceback season. He delivered, with one of his best seasons, his first time scoring above a point per game pace. A deadline trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets slowed down his production, but during their playoff run, he went on fire, with ten points in ten games. Duchene got consistent votes in this range, but he has the potential to do more. After signing with the Nashville Predators, he’s expected to be a big boost to their squad. If he could produce for the Senators, Preds fans will be excited to see what he can do in Nashville.

23. Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a treat to watch since he made his debut. The Stanley Cup Champion made a name for himself in his sophomore year and hasn’t looked back. He’s proved himself to be a 70 point player, and a successful 2017-18 campaign made that very clear. His 83 points in the regular season were great, but leading the Stanley Cup winners in playoff points was even more impressive. His 72 point season made sure voters had him as one of the best. Recent news has had him in trouble, but he was cleared by the NHL and hopefully, he’ll put that behind him. He’s a star in the Nation’s Capital (the American one), and maybe next year he’ll be ranked higher. 

24. David Krejci – Boston Bruins 

David Krejci was born to lead. This list is about being a center, not their ability to lead on the ice, but it’s a key reason why he had 20 goals with 53 assists. Krejci is a competitor but also believes in teamwork, which he clearly shows on the ice. This could also be why our voters had him as high as third place! Krejci shows that most hardworking players don’t always finish on top. After a brutal loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, Krejci and the Bruins will come back hungrier than ever.

25. William Karlsson – Vegas Golden Knights

The Expansion Draft pickup has played for the Golden Knights for the last two years. Since then, he’s made a name for himself with this new organization and it’s shown. 24 goals with 32 assists this season show that this 26-year-old center has just begun to show his abilities. Vegas is lucky to have acquired him for one more year. Karlsson received a number of votes in the 23-26th place range, but on a very competitive Golden Knights team, he can definitely prove he can go higher.

26. Sean Monahan – Calgary Flames

Sean Monahan quietly had a huge breakout year. For the past four seasons, Monahan has been a reliable 60+ point scorer. This season, he took it up a notch. His 82 points in 78 games show big things for the Flames. His season put him as high as 18th place with our voters. Centering Johnny Hockey himself, the Flames are set to have an outstanding duo for years to come. Monahan and the youngish Calgary Flames are set to finally push through in the playoffs, and they’ll be super exciting to watch.

27. Tomas Hertl – San Jose Sharks

Tomas Hertl had been a very promising player for a while, and we saw a good glimpse during his rookie season when he put up four goals in one night. It came to little surprise that he had his breakout year this year. His 74 point output helped carry a strong Sharks team to the Conference Finals, falling to the eventual Cup Champs. Hertl is only 25, there’s little question that he’ll put up more points soon. His season got him consistent votes around this spot, but he’ll definitely be higher soon enough.

28. Mika Zibanejad – New York Rangers

Mika Zibanejad had been a promising player for a while, and last season, he finally had his breakout year. The Ranger and part-time DJ had 74 points this past season, that too on a less-than-okay Rangers team. That earned Zibanejad votes as high as 22nd. Now that the Rangers are looking more like a real contender, expect the 26-year-old higher on this list soon. Especially with Artemi “Breadman” Panarin on his wing, the NHL will have to take note of Zibanejad.

29. Anze Kopitar – LA Kings

Anze Kopitar is one of the very few bright spots on the L.A. Kings. The two-time Selke winner is regarded as one of the best two-way forwards in the game. He’s outstanding defensively, and it’s like he just can’t miss 60+ points! Kopitar’s votes were as consistent as he is, with all of them around this spot. Kopitar and the aging Kings are in a bit of a tight spot, but they can count on him to help.

30. Joe Pavelski – Dallas Stars

Joe Pavelski had been one of the best players on a very good San Jose Sharks team for years. He’s a reliable 60+ point guy, and even at 35, finds himself on this list. Pavelski got numerous nods from our voters in the bottom three of their lists, one even putting him 14th! Pavelski recently signed a new deal with the Dallas Stars, where he’ll suit up beside the likes of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. We’d say there’s a chance that a 36-year-old Pavelski will find himself even higher by this time next year.

31. Eric Staal – Minnesota Wild

Eric Staal is 34 years old, but he can sure still play hockey! He played parts of 12 seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he hit 100 points once, and 70 points seven times. After a disappointing final season in Raleigh, he was traded to the Rangers, where he seemed to falter more. When the Minnesota Wild picked him up, it seemed he was on the decline. He was not. Staal has been one of the few bright spots that this Wild team has, and has hit 50 points for three straight seasons, going as far as 76 points! Wild fans don’t have much to look forward to, but they do have Staal.

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