The center position is arguably the most important in the game next to the goaltender due to the diverse amount of skills that the player who plays the position must possess. Faceoffs, two-way ability, and the ability to play make with the best of them.
The top-line center is also often the captain of his team, holding the most important leadership position in the game of hockey other than head coach.
There are plenty of top tier centers in the league, but only 10 can make this list. Here are my Top 10 NHL centers heading into the 2020-21 season.
#10: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
One of the most consistent stars down the middle over the last half decade, Scheifele has been the prime reason for any success the Jets have had over the last few years.
He has reached the point per game mark in each of the last five seasons, and has also tallied over 20 goals in each of the last six seasons, despite some games missed due to injuries and the suspended seasons.
However, Scheifele hasn’t been able to turn these point totals into overall team success the way he would like. Maybe adding a trophy to the case, whether that be a Stanley Cup or individual award may push him up this list.
#9: Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
This man is a playoff performer.
In 2019 he tallied 33 points in 23 games on the way to helping Tampa Bay win their first Stanley Cup, and then followed that up this year with 23 points in 23 games, including a historic 9 game goal scoring streak for Tampa’s second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Given that he is only 25 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow, and eventually will be recognized as the top middle man on the team over Steven Stamkos.
#8: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Whether he is in Buffalo or not, Eichel is still one of the faces of the NHL down the middle.
He had a quiet season last year with 16 assists but only 2 goals in 21 games, but he missed time due to injury. When he is healthy and on the ice, he is one of the best point scorers in all of hockey.
While he may find a new home soon with all the trade rumors surrounding him, Eichel is a commodity at the center position.
#7: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
The Selke Trophy winner of last season is one of the best two-way players in the game, and has helped revitalize a Florida Panthers franchise that has struggled in recent years.
He scored 58 points in 50 games last season, and the year before that he tallied 96 points in 82 games for his breakout campaign.
He enters the final year of his contract this season, but if the Panthers know what they are doing, and I have a feeling they do, then he will surely be locked up long term by the end of this season.
#6: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
The epitome of consistency playing 200 feet on the ice, Bergeron has been a Finalist for the Selke Trophy in ten consecutive years, and has been the head man for Boston’s first line, one of the most dangerous on the offensive end in the NHL.
He has scored 30 goals on five occasions over the last 10 seasons, and has also scored 20 goals in ten straight non shortened seasons.
His top line with Marchand and Pastrnak to his wing will surely be one of the top producing lines in the NHL once again this season.
#5: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
While many people may chalk his success up to being one of the teammates of Connor McDavid, Draisaitl has an Art Ross trophy to his name, and many of these other players do not.
His 299 points over the last three seasons ranks second only to McDavid, and he has been an absolute threat on the power play.
And while yes, many of his points come in combination with McDavid, Draisaitl has been centering his own line for the past two seasons, and still has been able to put up these stellar numbers.
With McDavid and Draisatil signed for the foreseeable future, Edmonton is sure to be competitive for many years to come.
#4: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews was the leading goal scorer from this past season, finally being able to surpass Ovechkin to capture his first ever Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy.
And at the rate he has been scoring goals over the past three seasons, he is likely to become the first player to reach the 50 goal mark since 2012-2013, other than possibly the greatest goal scorer of all time, Alex Ovechkin.
Matthews is the key cog in Toronto, and he will continue to have success as long as Toronto surrounds him with talented playmakers such as Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Matthews should be everyone’s favorite for the scoring title this season, and barring any setbacks, that should push Toronto to one of the top teams in the league.
#3 Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
While injuries have gotten the best of Crosby over the past few seasons, and really his whole career, he has still laid claim to an impressive feat. He has tallied a point per game in each of the 16 seasons he has played in the NHL.
He is expected to miss the start of this upcoming season, but it can be expected that when he returns, he will be one of the elite playmakers in the league and a consistent goal scorer.
While he may not be known as the best player in the NHL anymore, lots of pieces and things have changed in Pittsburgh over the years, but Crosby has been the glue holding it all together.
#2: Nathan Mackinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Had Connor McDavid not existed, Nathan Mackinnon would be the clear front runner for the crown of best center in the NHL. Alas, he is still one of the best in the world, and finally giving people the performances they expected coming from the first overall pick in 2013.
Since 2017-2018, he has dominated the competition, placing top 6 in Hart Memorial Trophy voting each year, and scoring over 90 points in each season from 2017-2020, and would have done the same had last season not been shortened by the pandemic.
And with Mackinnon’s improving success comes success and Stanley Cup hopes for the Colorado Avalanche, and they will surely be in the mix this season.
#1: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Who else would you expect to top off this list as the best center in the NHL other than the best player in the NHL.
He scored 105 points in 56 games this season. Let me say that again. 105 points, IN 56 GAMES.
That is nearly two points per game, something that hasn’t been done since Gretzky years, and McDavid is quickly cementing himself as one of the best to ever play the game.
At the age of 24, he has already won three Art Ross Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, and two Hart Memorial trophies.
He really only needs to win the Stanley Cup to already cement himself as one of the best players to ever skate the ice in the NHL, but that has been no easy task for Edmonton while he has donned their jersey.
The have only made it to the second round twice with McDavid as their captain, something they look to build on moving forward.