Can anyone unseat Connor McDavid as the best center in fantasy hockey? The league’s best offensive player is at the top of the list for the umpteenth season coming off his second straight Art Ross win, and his 123 points is tied for the third-highest total cap era and it’s just the fifth time a player had surpassed the 120-point mark.
For the most part, there’s no debate among the top four and the order they’re in. The next few spots are occupied by the usual suspects and the final couple of spots are usually where the debates begin. However, the consensus around the fantasy landscape is that budding Devils superstar Jack Hughes is the best candidate to move into the top 10 this season.
Take a look at the top 10 centers, and don't forget to pick up The Hockey News' 2022-23 Fantasy Poolbook issue:
1. Connor McDavid, Oilers
McDavid has scored 697 points in 487 games since entering the league, 74 more than second-place Patrick Kane despite playing 44 fewer games, and his 1.43 P/GP mark is nearly 15 percent better than second-place Nikita Kucherov’s 1.25 P/GP. There’s no real debate for the top spot.
2. Leon Draisaitl (C/LW), Oilers
Draisaitl’s LW eligibility gives him the edge over McDavid in leagues that count faceoff wins, but he’s still a distant second place in scoring with a career 1.10 P/GP. They’re the only two players to also have scored over 300 points in the past three seasons, while third-place Jonathan Huberdeau has amassed only 254.
3. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs
Matthews is the league’s most dangerous goal scorer, coming off a league-best 60-goal season and a Hart-Lindsay double win. Another 100-point season is likely to come, but where Matthews falls behind McDavid and Draisaitl is the lack of assists, averaging just 0.53 per game and tied for 40th last season.
4. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche
For a player of MacKinnon’s calibre, his career 10.1 S% is oddly low. He’s a high-volume shooter but not a particularly great finisher – probably because he shoots from just about anywhere – and he’s separated from the top three by the fact that he’s yet to win the Art Ross or Rocket Richard. He does, however, have the one thing that really counts: a Cup.
5. Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
Paul Maurice will be Barkov’s eighth coach (!) in 10 seasons but the big Finnish pivot has been one of the league’s most consistent two-way pivots, earning Selke votes in eight straight seasons and finishing top-five in voting four times. Since his breakout 2017-18 season with 78 points, only McDavid, Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Stamkos and Matthews have scored more points among centers.
6. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
It’s absolutely remarkable how dominant Crosby has been as he enters his 18th NHL season at 35 years old. Last season, he averaged 1.22 P/GP, his fourth-best mark over the past 10 seasons despite averaging the third-lowest amount of ice time per game in his career. Crosby plays best when the pressure is on, and the Pens are trying to squeeze another ship out of their aging core.
7. Steven Stamkos (C/LW), Lightning
With every injury-riddled season, Stamkos always comes back stronger. His 106-point campaign was his best individual season ever after being limited to 38 of 56 games the season before and 57 of 70 the season before that. Over the past decade, only 11 players have managed to score at least 40 goals in a season multiple times. It may be a young man’s game, but both Stamkos and Crosby – future Hall of Famers – are the exceptions as the only players over 30 on this list.
8. Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes
There may be centers who can score at a higher clip than Aho, such as Evgeni Malkin or Mark Scheifele, but neither offer the same upside in terms of youth or team trajectory. The Hurricanes will be good for a long time and Aho has been a point-per-game player for four straight seasons on a team that has a lot of talent and likes to play fast.
9. Mika Zibanjead, Rangers
The margin between Zibanejad and Aho is pretty thin. Both are averaging roughly a point per game over the past few seasons, but Aho is four years younger, more consistent and also far better than Zibanejad at the same age. Vincent Trocheck moving from the Canes to the Rangers also means he’s going to be cutting into Zibanejad’s playing time rather than Aho’s.
10. J.T. Miller (C/LW), Canucks
Miller wins the 10th spot after a career-best 99-point season powered by high usage and incredible efficiency on the power play, but it’s a precarious hold. Flash in the pan or late bloomer? Miller will turn 30 in March with an uncertain future on his current club, but even with a drop in production, his LW eligibility and faceoff prowess would still render him a valuable fantasy asset.
Jack Hughes, Devils
Hughes is the player everyone is waiting to crown as the next big thing after averaging 1.14 P/GP last season. The Devils are obviously still years away from their peak, so it’s likely fantasy managers will have to put up with poor plus-minus numbers even if Hughes has a big breakout season. The only drawback is the lack of LW eligibility even though he barely wins one-third of his faceoffs.
Jack Eichel, Golden Knights
Eichel has missed so much time over the past two seasons that it’s hard to rank him in the top 10 even with his immense talent and potential. The Knights’ roster is now often in flux due to their self-induced cap hell, and a stale power play couldn’t boost Eichel’s numbers even though he looked very much like a franchise center in the 34 games he played.
Elias Lindholm, Flames
Lindholm was quiet for two seasons following his breakout 78-point campaign three seasons ago, but last season got back on track with 82 points and finished second in Selke voting. A 40-goal season seems unlikely given his 17.9 S%, but he also finished fifth in faceoff wins with 842 and the Flames did an admirable job replacing both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.
Mark Scheifele, Jets
Scheifele’s a holdover and a point-per-game player over the past six seasons, but he doesn’t shoot the puck very often and the Jets are somewhere between being a dark-horse contender and playoff bubble team. Despite high usage, Scheifele’s faceoff prowess remains merely average, which means unless he’s scoring a lot of points, his lack of faceoff wins discounts his fantasy value.
(Positions are based on Yahoo’s pre-season settings and rankings are based on default scoring. Players with dual-position eligibility are noted in brackets)