The Top 15 Centers in the National Hockey League
I have decided to do a top 15 players list for each position. The entire player's career will be looked at with more emphasis put on how they have played in the last two or three years.
Nobody will deny the importance of the Center position, and the emergence of Sidney Crosby has made us all care just a little bit more. So without further ado, here are the top fifteen centers in the National Hockey League. Enjoy!
1. Sidney Crosby
2008-09 Stats: 77 GP 33 G 70 A 103 P
Career Stats: 290 GP 132 G 265 A 397 P
Was there ever any doubt? An argument could be made for Evgeni Malkin, but Crosby didn't disappear in last years play-offs and Malkin put up a lot of his points in the Carolina Hurricanes series while Crosby led the Penguins in the first three rounds until being stifled by Henrik Zetterberg in the finals.
Crosby was hyped as the next big thing ever since he was 14 years old and he has not disappointed as evidenced by his career 1.37 PPG and numerous awards.
He also became the youngest captain to ever win the cup when his Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in an extremely close seven game series.
2. Evgeni Malkin
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 35 G 78 A 113 P
Career Stats: 242 GP 115 G 189 A 304 P
Another easy choice here, Crosby and Malkin will likely be one and two for many years to come. Malkin silenced the critics who cried about his lackluster play in the finals last year with a Conn Smythe performance this time around, finishing with an incredible 36 points in only 24 games.
Malkin also put in an amazing effort throughout the course of the regular season to earn himself his first Art Ross trophy, but likely not his last.
Look for Crosby-Malkin and left wing Alexander Ovechkin to come 1-2-3 in scoring once again in the 2009-10 season.
3. Pavel Datsyuk
2008-09 Stats: 81 GP 32 G 65 A 97 P
Career Stats: 526 GP 171 G 351 A 522 P
Probably the best two-way player in the game, Datsyuk won his second consecutive Frank J. Selke trophy for his work in the defensive zone, proving that he can perform at both ends of the ice very effectively.
Datsyuk is a magician when it comes to stick handling and his moves with the puck amaze every player that plays with or against him.
Datsyuk has emerged as a leader on a veteran Detroit Red Wings squad and should be expected to be productive for many years to come.
4. Ryan Getzlaf
2008-09 Stats: 81 GP 25 G 66 A 91 P
Career Stats: 297 GP 88 G 182 A 270 P
Getzlaf emerged this season as the true offensive leader on the Anaheim Ducks and his performance this post season opened many peoples eyes, getting people to realize that Getzlaf has finally arrived as an elite NHL superstar.
Along with star goalie Jonas Hiller, Getzlaf led the Ducks to a seventh game against the powerful Detroit Red Wings in the second round.
He did everything from playing as many as 26 minutes a night, performing power play, even strength and penalty killing duties. The scary part is that he just turned 24 years of age in May.
5. Henrik Zetterberg
2008-09 Stats: 77 GP 31 G 42 A 73 P
Career Stats: 432 GP 183 G 222 A 405 P
Another one of Detroit's amazing two-way centers, Zetterberg was a candidate for the Selke trophy last year and should have been this year as well.
Zetterberg proved his worth with another stellar play-off performance and would have won the Conn Smythe trophy if Detroit had managed to win game seven.
Although he had a down season by his standards, expect another 40 goal season from Zetterberg next year with the possibility of him even hitting the 50 goal plateau.
6. Vincent Lecavalier
2008-09 Stats: 77 GP 29 G 38 A 67 P
Career Stats: 787 GP 302 G 367 A 669 P
He had a very disappointing season on a very disappointing team, but there is no doubting the immense skill that Lecavalier possesses, especially after you look at the two seasons he had prior to this one.
Lecavalier is a big body center that can skate very well and possesses great hockey sense and hands. I fully expect him to rebound with a 90 point season next year.
7. Joe Thornton
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 25 G 61 A 86 P
Career Stats: 836 GP 265 G 577 A 842 P
Yes, his team collapsed once again during the play-offs, but you can hardly put the blame entirely on Joe Thorntons shoulders and there is no doubting the type of impact Thornton has had on the Sharks in the regular season during his three and half years with the team.
Thornton has the best vision in the game, his ability to find the open man no matter what is incredible and the amount of assists he puts up on a yearly basis is mind boggling. Maybe next year can finally be the one where Thronton shakes off his play-off demons.
8. Mike Richards
2008-09 Stats: 79 GP 30 G 50 A 80 P
Career Stats: 290 GP 79 G 142 A 221 P
Richards has developed into the kind of two-way player he was expected to be and the leader that the Flyers can look up to.
Richards set a career high with 80 points and actually earned himself more first place votes then Pavel Datsyuk for the Selke trophy, but lost due to Datsyuk having many more second and third place votes.
Richards led the league with seven short handed goals and played nearly 22 minutes a night, getting put on the ice in every situation including even strength, power play and short handed situations.
9. Eric Staal
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 40 G 35 A 75 P
Career Stats: 409 GP 164 G 194 A 358 P
Eric Staal has been a force to be reckoned with ever since his 100 point sophomore campaign and Stanley Cup victory.
Staal is not afraid of physical play and is very durable, as evidenced by the fact that he has only missed one game in his first five seasons of NHL action.
Staal is a pure goal scorer and is already proven in the play-offs where he has led Carolina to one championship and another extensive run.
Staal is only 24 yet and do not be surprised if he hits the 50 goal plateau in the near future.
10. Jeff Carter
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 46 G 38 A 84 P
Career Stats: 307 GP 112 G 104 A 216 P
Yet another young center who also knows his way around the defensive side of the ice, Carter burst on to the scene this year with an incredible 46 goals. Just looking at his stats shows you that he is a pure goal scorer with nice hands and a good shot.
Carter led the league in game winning goals with 12 and also contributed to the Flyers league leading shorthanded goal total with four of his own on the penalty kill.
11. Marc Savard
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 25 G 63 A 88 P
Career Stats: 741 GP 195 G 468 A 663 P
The oldest player on the list at 32 years of age, Savard helped lead the Boston Bruins to a first place finish in the Eastern Conference. Savard has great vision and passing skills, and can even score some goals if needed.
Criticized for his defensive play, Savard has gotten better since his days in Atlanta, but he was left off Team Canada's invite list for the summer camp because of his issues in the defensive zone.
12. Jonathan Toews
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 34 G 35 A 69 P
Career Stats: 146 GP 58 G 65 A 123 P
The Chicago Black Hawks made Toews the youngest captain in the NHL before the start of the season at the young age of 20. Toews did not disappoint, leading the Hawks to the conference finals for the first time since 1995.
If not for a slow start to the season, Toews would have had his first 40 goal season in just his second year in the NHL. This is the kind of player that is going to have an extended career and will be someone that the Hawks must keep.
13. Nicklas Backstrom
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 22 G 66 A 88 P
Career Stats: 164 GP 36 G 121 A 157 P
Nicklas Backstrom exploded onto the scene this year with an amazing season playing along side Alexander Ovechkin, the National Hockey Leagues best sniper.
Backstrom is a great passer and his game is perfectly suited for him to be Ovechkins center.
The scary part is that once Backstrom begins to shoot more he will be capable of putting together 30 goal, 70 assist, 100 point type seasons, ensuring that the Capitals will contenders for a very long time.
14. Mikko Koivu
2008-09 Stats: 79 GP 20 G 47 A 67 P
Career Stats: 282 GP 57 G 127 A 184 P
The younger brother of former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, Mikko Koivu will likely end up with a better career then his brother when all is said and done.
Koivu has emerged as the leader in Minnesota as the franchise has never had a permanent captain.
Koivu plays in all situations for the Wild and is go to guy on offense. There is a rumor that Saku will sign with Minnesota, uniting the brothers for the first time in their NHL careers.
15. Henrik Sedin
2008-09 Stats: 82 GP 22 G 60 A 82 P
Career Stats: 646 GP 109 G 351 A 460 P
Henrik Sedin is one-half of the best duo in hockey along with his twin brother Daniel. Being the center, Henrik is the guy with great vision and passing ability, while Daniel is the one with soft hands and a great ability to finish.
Henrik is very consistent and I believe he will lead Vancouver to a Cup in the near future. Whats really weird about him and his brother is that Daniel has just two more career points then Henrik in four less games and they both finished with the same amount of points this year.