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Top 25 Centers: McDavid and Crosby duke it out for top spot

Two of the league's brightest stars top the list, but the gap between McDavid, Crosby and the rest of the group isn't as wide as one might think.

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
The most elite player in the NHL does everything at high speed – and he’s the fastest there is. A lock to put up triple digits.

2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Even at 32, Crosby remains one of the game’s best. Even as Pittsburgh loses depth, he continues to shine at both ends of the ice.

3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
His speed and power are two of the most imposing forces in the NHL, and his line was nearly impossible to handle. Is a Hart next?

4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Centered the best line in hockey and put up a career-best 79 points. And he can still shut down elite players better than anyone else.

5. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
We keep banging the drum, and he keeps getting better. Barkov is everything you want in a No. 1 center, and now he’s got more help.

6. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Look for fireworks if he plays all 82 games. Matthews continues to grow, and his release is one of the most confounding in the NHL.

7. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
The Conn Smythe Trophy-winner turned it up a notch in the Stanley Cup final. Otherwise, he was just an elite, two-way force for the Blues.

8. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs
Found magic with Mitch Marner in his first year with Leafs. Tavares is as savvy as they come and flirted with 50 goals. He can hit it.

9. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Top-notch two-way player coming off a career-high 84 points. Is his first 40-goal year coming up next? It’s well within range.

10. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
A Hall of Fame career has seen ups and downs, but when ‘Geno’ is healthy he’s still one of the NHL’s most powerful weapons.

11. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
Redefining what a smaller player can do, Point made his case as Tampa’s most dangerous threat – and that’s a competitive category.

12. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Even with Point pressuring him, Stamkos remains one of the best offensive pivots around, continuing his chemistry with Kucherov.

13. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
The wily pivot is a joy to watch, from his skills to his celebrations. He may not be the best-known Russian on the team, but he’s key.

14. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Had a controversial year in Dallas but turned it around in time to lead the Stars to the playoffs. Can he get Jamie Benn back on track?

15. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
So smooth, so smart. Aho had troubles in the playoffs, but his season was a revelation. The Canes’ present and future run through him.

16. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
With help arriving in Buffalo, perhaps Eichel can finally find success. He’s got the size, the skill and the moves. A winning team is next.

17. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
He won the Calder in a runaway. With his silky skills, it’s not hard to see why. Pettersson is central to Vancouver’s rebuild.

18. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Couture hits another level in the playoffs, but he’s good during the season, too. With the Sharks losing some vets, he’s more important.

19. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
His totals took a hit, but the Isles jumped in the standings so it’s hard to complain. Barzal is one of the best young playmakers around.

20. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
If you can believe it, Toews just had a career season at 30. His Hawks are rebuilding, but the two-way ace can still make noise.

21. Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
Calgary was great in the regular season but faltered in the playoffs. Monahan needs to add another dimension to his scoring game.

22. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
From shutdown ace to main attraction, the experiment worked and Couturier centering Giroux has been great for a team on the rise.

23. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
While his Kings are flailing, Kopitar remains a superb two-way player. The stats are down, but the captain is still tough to play against.

24. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene are gone, so the onus is on Dubois to keep raising the bar in his young career. He’s got power and skill.

25. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
As the Sharks begin to transition from one era to the next, Hertl will become increasingly important. Showed off his high end in playoffs.



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