Jordan Staal starting this season takes over for Evgeni Malkin as the Penguins second line center. Malkin moves to right wing.
In the NHL, the first line usually gets all the limelight, all the attention. Some people believe that many games are decided by a team's first line's performance. However, that would be one of the most absurd notions ever.
Like most sports, hockey is a team game. The success of a team depends on everyone, from the player receiving the most ice time all the way down to the player receiving the least.
Often, the more unheralded players don't get the attention they deserve in the media and from fans alike.
These players often take over for star players when they have off games, though.
So, here's a listing of the best second line centers in the NHL.
Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments.
Ribeiro has always been a pretty decent playmaker in his hockey career, but the one thing holding him back is consistency. He battled through it most nights early in his career in Montreal.
The fans made Ribeiro their whipping boy and after the 2005-06 season, Ribeiro found a new home in Dallas and his career and stats exploded from there.
In his second season with the Stars, Ribeiro showed the consistency that was lacking in Montreal scoring 27 times and collecting 56 helpers, giving him 83 points. Not a bad showing for the former Habs farm hen.
Ribeiro's 2009-10 Statistics
Mike Fisher, who I envy for being married to Carrie Underwood, is arguably one of the best all around centers in the NHL.
Mike Fisher, since his early beginnings as a star with his junior club, the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, has always been a remarkable two-way hockey player. His inclusion into the rankings may come as a surprise, but I think he warrants a spot.
He may not score the most goals or come up with highlight reel plays, but Fisher is nearly irreplaceable on the Senators squad and is the best all around player on the Sens team, not to mention one of the best in all the NHL.
Fisher's 2009-2010 Stats
Tyler Seguin, one of the most promising rookies heading into the NHL Season, wasn't expected to crack the opening day roster at center.
What I like to call the three -headed monster, the Bruins boast the absolute best crop of centers in the NHL. With first line center Marc Savard injured with post-concussion syndrome, the Bruins will probably be forced to start Tyler Seguin earlier than originally planned.
Patrice Bergeron has a great all around game. He has the offensive talent to be a second line center in the NHL, but he's also got the defensive mindset that lends him to being a shutdown defender. Along with Fisher, Bergeron is one of the best two-way centers in the NHL.
David Krejci, a year off a wonderful breakout year where he led all forwards in +/- with a +37 rating and 73 points in 82 games, is most likely Boston's second line center this season if Marc Savard is healthy.
Tyler Seguin, the Bruins first selection and second overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was acquired in the Phil Kessel trade. The Bruins couldn't be happier with the trade, as they've landed probably the best center from that draft class, at least at the moment.
All three of these players are interchangeable in my mind: they can handle second line center duties, and with respect to Krejci and Bergeron, both have the defensive ability at this point in their careers to play a third line checking role as well. For their overall versatility I could rank them higher, but for now eighth place is where they'll stay.
Tim Connolly will be looking to play in his first back to back injury free seasons since the lockout.
Tim Connolly, taken fifth overall by the Islanders in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, is one of the greatest enigmas in the post-lockout NHL. Blessed with incredible vision, Connolly's biggest obstacle to overcome the last few years has been his health.
When healthy, Connolly has the ability to score at a point-per-game pace. Last season (2009-10) was the first year since the lockout that Connolly remained relatively injury-free, playing in 73 games. In previous years, Tim had a hard time even playing in 50 games; however, in each of those seasons he scored at nearly a point-per-game pace.
Connolly this season will be playing on the line with Jason Pominville and rookie Tyler Ennis on Buffalo's second line. Buffalo should have one of the more dynamic and offensive top-six forwards in the NHL, with their first line consisting of Drew Stafford, Derek Roy, and Thomas Vanek. They will all look to bounce back this season.
Connolly's 2009-10 Statistics
Joe Pavelski apparently has a tough time smiling for the camera.
The San Jose Sharks probably have the best top-six forwards in the league. All Stars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley are the Sharks dynamic offensive stars.
However, what separates the Sharks from other teams is their interchangeable second set of forwards: Ryan Clowe, Devin Setoguchi, and the center, and focus of this slide, Joe Pavelski. All three of them are first line caliber players, having to play a second line role on the Sharks due to the team's overall depth at forward.
Little Joe has a penchant for creating offense, and I believe Pavelski is one of the rising stars in the NHL. With Thornton not getting any younger and potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent next season, Pavelski's first line center role may be coming sooner rather than later.
Jordan Staal looks primed for a breakout season offensively in 2010-11.
Some fans will wonder why I have Staal ranked so high, but I believe this second overall selection in the 2006 NHL draft is primed for a breakout season. Staal has been forced in recent years to play third line center on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. However, this season I'm hearing rumors that Evgeni Malkin (the best second line center from years past) will be moving to the wing, and Staal will take over second line center duties.
If this in fact does happen, Staal will be playing with Malkin to his right and Mike Comrie to his left. He will have better offensive talent at his sides, and you should see a spike in point production.
Staal's 2009-10 Statistics
Tomas Plekanec, a small and diminutive Czech center for the Montreal Canadiens, enjoyed a breakout season three years ago collecting 20 goals and adding 49 assists for 69 points. However, in the season following, Plekanec battled through inconsistency and pressure from the Montreal media only getting 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points in 80 games.
However, that offseason, great change hit the Bell Center. The Habs signed Mike Cammalleri to add some much needed scoring touch to Plekanec's wing, and ever since then, Plekanec has been Montreal's go to center; and not Scott Gomez, the supposed first line center.
Playing on a line with Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn, Plekanec had the best year of his career and I feel the best is yet to come for this 28 year old center.
Plekanec's 2009-10 Statistics
Matt Duchene is one of the best up and coming players in the game today.
Matt Duchene had a wonderful rookie season last year, cementing himself as a fixture in the NHL for years to come. He finished the season third in rookie-voting behind Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and eventual Calder Trophy winner, defence-man Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres.
Duchene has speed to spare, skill, and a great head on his shoulders. He has a knack for finding the back of the net. In his two junior years, he scored at least 30 goals each season, and in his final season of minor hockey before hitting junior, he scored 69 goals in only 52 games.
Duchene plays for his childhood favorite Colorado Avalanche and has drawn comparisons to their franchise legend, Joe Sakic. For Avalanche fans, if Duchene can amount to half of what Sakic meant to the franchise, the Avalanche will be in great hands for the future.
Duchene's 2009-10 Statistics
Vincent LeCavalier will need to elevate his paly this season if the Lightning want to make the playoffs this season.
Vincent LeCavalier has really had a couple of tumultuous last few seasons in the NHL. Vinny probably has some of the best offensive abilities in the NHL outside of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
But for Vinny, the last few seasons in Tampa have been years to forget for this former first-overall selection out of Ile-Bizard, Quebec. On about 80 percent of the teams in the NHL, LeCavalier would be a first line center. However, in Tampa he will be playing second fiddle to Super Sophomore from last season, Steven Stamkos, who proved that the sophomore jinx is just a myth by winning the Rocket Richard Trophy for scoring the most goals in the NHL (51).
Two years ago, LeCavalier came off of seasons scoring 92 and 108 points respectively. This season, LeCavalier will have some brand new linemates to play with, and hopefully for all Vinny owners in fantasy hockey, LeCavalier will enjoy a bounce-back season. He'll be playing with Ryan Malone and newcomer Simon Gagne, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers.
LeCavalier's 2009-10 Statistics
Patrick Sharp is one of the most versatile forwards in the NHL. He can play anywhere you need him, whether that's center, left wing, or right wing.
Before hitting the Windy City, Sharp was never really thought of as a first or second line player. He's always been responsible defensively, and many experts pegged him as a third line checking player. However, Sharp had something to say about that.
Midway through the 2005–06 season, Sharp was traded by the Flyers, along with Éric Meloche, to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matt Ellison and a third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft
This may prove to be one of the smartest moves the Blackhawks have ever made.
Since then, Sharp has seen his stock skyrocket. Before that trade, Sharp was destined for a third line checking role, but since then he has elevated his game to nearly an elite status.
Sharp's 2009-10 Statistics
Ryan Kesler was an emerging star last year, this season though, Kesler is a target on most nights.
Kesler enjoyed a breakout season last year playing on a line with Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond. Nothing has really changed this year; Kesler will be playing with the same linemates, so there's no reason to expect a change in production from Kesler.
At the Olympics, Kesler had an experience to remember, playing in his home arena and taking home the silver medal in a hard-fought game against the Canadians. It was at this tournament that the hockey world took notice of Kesler's talents. Since then Kesler has gone on to cement himself as a regular on the Canucks powerplay, penalty kill, and in the community as well.
Again, Kesler is one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL, and he can even bring it in the physicality department, collecting over 100 penalty minutes last season.
Kesler's 2009-10 Statistics
**I apologize for the confusion earlier, I decided to go with two more sources for my research and stumbled upon two more names, so I needed to make a change. Note, Malkin and Zetterberg are supposedly playing first line duties with their respective clubs according to my three sources (yahoo sports, hockey news, hockey forecaster) so if there's a change, I'll make it when the time comes.**
Jeff Carter, the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound, make up what could be the best duo ever taken after the top 10 in an NHL Entry Draft. Along with fellow center, and team captain Mike Richards (taken 24th overall), Carter (11the Overall) has always been an elite level goal scorer, even from his days in junior.
Carter is blessed with size, skill and speed, and for what it's worth, is probably a first line center on nearly every team in the NHL.
The 25 year old Carter struggled last season, but the previous season he collected a team high 46 goals to go along with 38 assists to give him 84 points.
Last season, the London, Ontario native struggled and only scored 33 goals. Yes, you heard right, Carter struggles and still scores 33 goals.
Carter's 2009-10 Statistics