HockeyBuzz Hotstove: Hotstove: Ranking The NHL’s Top-5 Centers

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Welcome to another edition of the Hockeybuzz hotstove.

There are a lot of great players in hockey, obviously, so when ranking players we’ll be separating them by position. In this edition of the hotstove each of the hotstove members will be sharing their top-5 centers in the league and providing a little reasoning behind their choices.

Todd Cordell

1. Sidney Crosby – To me he’s the best center (and player) in hockey and it’s not really close. He has recorded at least 100 points in each of the five seasons he’s played in at last 77 games, and historically does well in possession. It’s becoming increasingly hard to reach the 100 point plateau, and last year he posted 104 points while no other player tallied a higher total than 87.

2. Steven Stamkos – He scored 60 goals a couple years ago, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him doing it again at some point. He’s 24 and may already be the best goal scorer in the league.

3. Evgeni Malkin – As I mentioned above, players who can record 100 points (or even approach that total) are rare in today’s NHL, and Malkin has done it three times. If he can stay healthy, I think he’ll be able to tally 90+ points annually.

4. Anze Kopitar – Most see Jonathan Toews as the top two-way center in hockey, but in my opinion that’s Kopitar. Toews posts better numbers, but he’s had better wingers to work with and plays in a more up-tempo offensive system. If we take last year, for example, the Kings generated more shot attempts and scoring chances with Kopitar on the ice than the Blackhawks did with Toews on the ice, and Kopitar did that while starting almost 10% more of his shifts in the defensive zone.

5. John Tavares – He’s an elite finisher, and dramatically improves anybody he plays with. He has that Crosby-esque ability to play with middle-6 forwards and help them produce top-line totals. I think the best is yet to come with Tavares, and believe he has the ability to average a point per game or more on a yearly basis.

Honorable mentions: Claude Giroux (elite point producer/possession driver), Jonathan Toews (one of the top two-way centers) and Ryan Getzlaf (consistent power-forward who racks up a ton of assists and can score as well). Ryan Wilson

1. Sidney Crosby This is pretty easy. Crosby played in a shutdown role last year because his team’s bottom six forward grouping was amongst the worst in the league. How did he do? He won the scoring title by 17 points.

2. Steven Stamkos He is the most prominent goal scoring threat in the NHL right next to Alex Ovechkin. He can score on the power play, he can score at even strength and he is still in his statistical prime.

3. Jonathan Toews There isn’t a flaw to be had with Jonathan Toews. In the past three years he ranks fifth amongst NHL forwards and third amongst centers in points/60 at even strength with 2.60. This of course is while playing against the best the opponent’s have to offer.

4. Anze Kopitar He doesn’t produce the same level of offense as Jonathan Toews but he plays a very similar role. Last year Anze Kopitar led the NHL in Fenclose% with a remarkable 62.5%. He is a big reason why the Kings will be looking for their third championship in four years this coming season.

5. Evgeni Malkin If we are being honest he can be as high as #2 on this list. Only thing keeping him from getting there lately has been his health. He is one of only three players to win the Hart, Conn Smythe, Calder, Ted Lindsay, and Art Ross. The other two? Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. He’s still in the prime of his career. He still deserves to be on this list.

Honorable mentions to John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, and Tyler Seguin Tim Chiasson

1. Sidney Crosby: He’s the best player in the world, not much else to say on Sid.

2. Steven Stamkos: Tampa’s #91 is the best goal scorer in the NHL, hands down. He makes everyone around him better and has quickly evolved into the superstar he was hyped to be. To me he’s the only person in the league that can play cat and mouse in the statistics department with Crosby.

3. Evgeni Malkin: Malkin becomes Crosby when Sid gets hurt. He carries the Penguins when 87 is in the stands and is a constant threat to take over and dominate a hockey game when he doesn’t let emotions take over.

4. John Tavares: Tavares is about to reach the next tier of stardom this season. He’s coming into his superstar projection and can make plays very few players can.

5. Anze Kopitar: Here’s probably the most undervalued player in the NHL. Kopitar flirts with a point-per-game every single season, wins face-offs and shows up when it’s crunch time. He doesn’t consistently have that extra gear that the first four do, but when he finds it he’s usually the best player on the ice. James Tanner

Crosby – Obvious. Not really debatable.

Stamkos – I think he’s the second best offensive player in hockey, so he must also be the second best centre.

Giroux – Maybe I’m wrong, but I think people really under rate Girioux. This baby is money. Might even win a scoring title.

Malkin – Hard to have him at four, but he’s always getting injured. I think he might just be the second best player after Crosby, but I don’t remember when the last time I saw him play was.

Tavares – Perhaps he will rank hire once he wins his first scoring title, but regardless Tavares is great.

I am probably underrating Toews because people always overrate him, but I think offense gets under valued compared to defense and intangibles like leadership. Winning is partly luck, partly team dependent, and does anyone really think if you swapped out Crosby for Toews the Blackhawks would have less championships? Anyways, give me guys who score over a point per game any time. When Toewsie hits 90 points, I’ll slot him in at number two.

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Agree or disagree with our choices? Feel free to leave your thoughts as well as your own top-5 in the comment section. Recent posts Stanley Cup predictions How many Canadian teams will make the playoffs? Western Conference breakout players Eastern Conference breakout players Western Conference bold predictions Eastern Conference bold predictions

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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