Top 10 NHL Center Rankings For 2015-16: Is Sidney Crosby Still No. 1?

by NESN Staff

September 30, 2015

After a long summer, a new hockey season is just around the corner. The 2015-16 NHL campaign promises to be an exciting one, especially after all the player movement that went down during the offseason.

General managers tried to strengthen their depth at every position, particularly at center. You need great depth down the middle to win the Stanley Cup, and since these players make such a huge impact at both ends of the ice, it’s often difficult to acquire top-six level centers via trade or free agency.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 centers entering the 2015-16 season.

Before you get angry and tweet your displeasure (my handle can be found above), please note the difference between all 10 of these players is very small, especially in the bottom five.

1) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby has been the league’s best player for several seasons, and there’s no reason to think otherwise heading into 2015-16. The Penguins captain scores above a point-per-game mark, is excellent on faceoffs, drives puck possession, makes good-but-not-great players like Chris Kunitz into Olympians and thinks the game faster than anyone. He also has improved defensively over the last five seasons.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Malkin doesn’t receive enough credit for his play, probably because he’s overshadowed by Crosby. Nevertheless, the Russian forward is an elite offensive player who’s scored above a point-per-game pace in each of the last four seasons. He tallied 70 points in 69 games last season despite dealing with injuries. Malkin also leads the Penguins in playoff scoring since their 2008-09 Stanley Cup run.

3) Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews is amazing. He’s an annual finalist for the Selke Trophy as a premier two-way player, and he also rises to the occasion in the playoffs, as seen last season during the Blackhawks’ run to a third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. His offensive production isn’t off the charts, but his ability to drive possession and contribute at both ends of the ice at even strength, as well as on the power-play and penalty-kill units, is quite impressive.

4) Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks captain is the heart and soul of the best team in the Western Conference entering 2015-16. After a disappointing 2011-12 campaign offensively, Getzlaf has 206 points in 198 games over the last three years, including two 25-goal seasons (his first since 2006-07). He plays a tough, physical game and uses it to win puck battles all over the ice.

Getzlaf’s contributions also are felt on the power play and penalty kill. He hasn’t played too well in Game 7s over the last two seasons, but he does have 35 points in 28 playoff games between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

5) Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Bergeron is the best defensive forward in the NHL as the two-time defending Selke Trophy winner, the top puck possession center and is capable of providing between 55 and 65 points per season. He also was the best faceoff forward in the league last season.

Bergeron makes a huge impact on the power-play and penalty-kill units, too, while facing elite competition at even strength. The Bruins attempted 8.99 percent more even-strength shots than their opponent with Bergeron on the ice compared to when he wasn’t last season. San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton was the only forward who made a larger impact at 9.66 percent.

Could you imagine if Bergeron received first-line-level even-strength minutes?

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 6.28.54 AM

6) Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar is a consistent 65-plus-point player, but he makes a great impact on the defensive end as a Selke Trophy-caliber player who drives possession better than most centers. Kopitar also played a primary role on the Kings’ two Stanley Cup title teams in 2011-12 and 2013-14. He has tallied 60 points in 70 career playoff games.

Los Angeles would be wise to re-sign Kopitar to an extension ASAP. He’s entering the final year of his contract and is eligible for UFA status in July.

7) John Tavares, New York Islanders
Tavares is the ideal franchise player and captain for the Islanders as they enter their first season in Brooklyn. The former No. 1 draft pick has scored above a point-per-game rate over the last four seasons while improving defensively. He also has been productive in his brief playoff career with 11 points in 13 games.

8) Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Stars winger Jamie Benn won the scoring title last season, and Seguin, his linemate, very well could earn that honor in 2015-16. Seguin is an offensive machine who blends an ultra-high level of skill with excellent speed and offensive awareness. Despite missing 11 games with a knee injury, Seguin scored 37 goals and added 40 assists last season. He has posted 161 points in 151 games over two seasons in Dallas.

9) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos is the second-best goal scorer in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin with 498 points in 492 career games. His offensive production was instrumental in the Tampa Bay Lightning reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Interestingly, he has posted more than 30 assists only once in the last four seasons.

10) Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Giroux scores at a point-per-game rate, and his elite play-making skills create high-quality scoring chances for teammates — just ask Jakub Voracek. The Flyers captain also is a force on the power play, where he led the league with 37 points during the 2014-15 campaign. Giroux is great on faceoffs, too, with a 56.6 win percentage last season (fourth-best in the league).

Click to see our top 10 wingers entering 2015-16 >>

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Nov 25, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) waits for a face-off against Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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