So before I wrote this post I went back and looked at the Top 30 and realized 13 of the 30 are Centers.¬† At first I questioned my own logic for ranking players, but then I rationalized that (almost always) the guys with the most talent and playmaking ability end up as¬†top line¬†Centers.¬† Every player in the NHL dominated their competition when they were younger, so in an effort to maximize scoring smart Coaches move them to Center.¬† They handle the puck the majority of the time, they take face-offs and¬†in general are the leaders of their line.¬† And if you have a brain in your head you realize handling the puck more than anyone on the ice will lead to points.¬† Thus their high value in fantasy (good logic eh?).
14)¬† Brad Richards ‚Äď C (NYR):¬† The 60 million¬†dollar man is expected to be¬†THE MAN¬†in the big apple.¬† It’s undoubtedly a good move for his wallet, but I’m not sure this is a good move for his fantasy value.¬† Despite what Ranger fans will say, having Gaborik and fill in the blank is¬†not a huge¬†upgrade over Loui Eriksson and James Neal (I know Neal¬†was traded to¬†Pittsburgh but he was in Dallas for the first 60 games).¬† Yes Gaborik is probably the most talented wing-man Richards has ever had, but he’s also the least likely to have a healthy season.¬† And Richards isn’t exactly an iron man either.¬† It wouldn’t shock me if the 2 of them are on the ice at the same time for more than 65 games this year, but 15 total wouldn’t shock me either.
15) ¬†Anze Kopitar ‚Äď C (LA):¬† Kopi and Anthony is¬†seen by many as one of those¬†“breakout” candidates.¬† He’s only 24 and he’s already established himself as a point-per-game guy.¬† And when you’re 24 and doing that with minimal help from your linemates, adding a couple top line guys should increase production.¬† But before you go falling in love, keep in mind that Mike Richards may not even end up on Kopi’s line and Simon Gagne plays about as often I play anything that involves effort.
16)¬† Joe Thornton ‚Äď C (SJ):¬† It felt wrong ranking Jumbo Joe here but its time to face the facts: A) Last year was the worst of his career.¬† B) Dany Heatley is gone (although Havlat was¬†a nice signing he’s¬†still a downgrade) and C) He looked old, slow and fat last year.¬† His player profile says¬†6’4″ 235 and I call BS on that.¬† He’s¬†north of 250 easy.¬† Still the passing ability is there so if you can get him in¬†round 4 or 5 he could give you 2nd round value.
17)¬† Derek Roy ‚Äď C (Buf):¬† Along with Zack Parise this is the guy who I completely ommitted from my rankings when I first did them.¬† He’s just kind of a boring player playing¬†for a tiny market who¬†got hurt in December and¬†then¬†made it back for the last game of the year.¬† But still he’s pretty consistent when healthy and he’s got the most underrated goal scorer in the NHL on his wing (Thomas Vanek).¬† An 80 point season with 30PPP’s and 200 plus shots is the upside.
18)¬† John Tavares ‚Äď C (NYI):¬† Here is one of those guys who I had originally ranked much higher but upon further review had¬†to drop in my rankings.¬† He’s got the talent and youth on his side (he was born the same year¬†I was busy playing the¬†original John Madden Football …¬†And¬†how sweet is the image of Madden on that cover?¬† Forget current players, I vote¬†that the next installment of Madden uses that for the cover.)¬† Okay back to Tavares – I love him this year.¬† Like I’ve already said a few times the Islanders will be much improved in 2011-2012 and J.T. will be a big reason why.
19)¬† Mike Richards ‚Äď C (LA):¬† Am I the only one who is relieved he’s no longer with the Flyers?¬† (I used to get him and Jeff Carter confused all the time).¬† Expect a slight downgrade in¬†his¬†production¬†in LA, but if he ends up clicking with Kopitar he could return to the 80+ point level he was at 3 years ago.¬† But I consider the odds of that happening at not so great.
20)¬† Mike Ribeiro ‚Äď C (Dal):¬† Alright so he may look like that one friend you have from high school who you try to avoid at all costs because he’s addicted to meth and¬†has no job, money, ambition or future –¬†but I assure you Ribeiro is not that guy.¬† Now the top Center in Dallas, the potential for increased production is there (as in a point-per-game guy)¬†which makes him worthy of being a Top 20 Center.¬† He is as boring a pick as you can possibly imagine, but if you decide to wait on a¬†#2 Center getting Ribeiro in the 8th or 9th round will provide value.¬† And in some leagues you may be able to get him later than that as your #3 Center, which would be ideal.
Okay that rounds out the Top 20.¬†¬†And on top of that I’ll throw in some bonus advice: I would draw a line at #16 Joe Thornton if I were doing “tiers”.¬† Brad Richards, Kopitar and Jumbo Joe are the last 3 guys in what I would consider the “2nd tier”, so keep that in mind when drafting.¬† And¬†I have many more Centers left to talk about but stopping¬†at #20 seems ideal (plus it was a long weekend and I’m up way past my bedtime).