H. Sedin

 

The first edition of this list was put together last year, and it is something I am going to update at least once each season. I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often I see poolies place too much of an emphasis on youth and prospects instead of trying to add players who could help them win now.

 

Using this rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.

 

Keeping the two-to-three-year window in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league centers to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the scope, the long-term upside of these players is balanced with their NHL readiness.

 

This list is in order, which means that I wouldn’t trade the fourth player straight across for the fifth player, and so on.  The one year upside is for 2011-12, and the three year upside is for any season between the next and 2013-14.

 

1. Sidney Crosby


A horrific concussion isn’t enough to slide Crosby down this list. When healthy, he is the best hockey player on the planet. He was hoping to return to the Pittsburgh lineup this spring before suffering a setback during the recovery process, and Crosby owners (like myself) have to be at least somewhat concerned about his long-term health.

 

 

There isn’t really much else to say – he scores goals, he is the best playmaker in the game, he racks up a respectable amount of PIM with the gritty edge he plays with, and he wins more faceoffs than the rest of the league… combined (at least it seems that way). It will be interesting to see if having a legitimate scoring threat on his line (James Neal, no offense to Chris Kunitz) will change his role back from a scorer to more of a playmaker. Neal hasn’t proven much in the NHL without a star center to play with (Brad Richards in Dallas). Thankfully he won’t have to in Pittsburgh, unless Crosby and the number two on this list are both injured at the same time again.

 

 

I may be alone, but Crosby’s upside depends a lot on the role he plays. If he goes back to being primarily a playmaker, I could see some consistent 30-40 goal, 110+ point seasons. If he keeps shooting the puck, his goal total should hover closer to 50, but his overall points would be a bit less. Either way, hope his brain heals, even if you don’t own him. Simply put, he’s good for the game of hockey, both fantasy and on the ice.

 

One year upside: 50-80-130, 100 PIM

Three year upside: 50-80-130, 100 PIM

 

2. Evgeni Malkin


Fool me once, shame on you. I drafted Malkin ahead of any other player outside of Crosby and Ovechkin in my one year pool last year. His ability to fill a variety of categories was too enticing to pass up, and I didn’t think Steven Stamkos would be morphing into Brett Hull 2.0 just yet. Fool me twice, shame on me. Call me stubborn, but I’d still take Malkin over Stamkos in both one-year and keeper league formats. His knee injury was serious, but doctors are so good nowadays that I have little concern for any long-term ramifications.

 

 

When at the top of his game, he is arguably a better player than Crosby and Ovechkin. Malkin skates like Sergei Fedorov, and he handles the puck like Jean Beliveau. He’s not gritty or overly physical, but like his countryman Pavel Bure, he’ll fight back if provoked. He’s had at least 78 PIM in each of his full NHL seasons. With the upside number below, it assumes a “perfect storm” of a season. I’m not sure if the NHL is fit for a 130 or 140-point player any more, but Malkin and Crosby are the only two that have that potential – however small it is.

 

One year upside: 45-70-115, 100 PIM

Three year upside: 50-80-140, 100 PIM

 

3. Steven Stamkos


The most impressive showing from Stamkos in 2010-11 wasn’t his 45 goals, nor his second-straight 82 games played. It wasn’t his 74 PIM, almost exactly double his previous career high. The fresh-faced Jeff Spicoli lookalike surprised the hockey world with his lumberjack beard. In recent years, several young players have dazzled with their postseason play, while their wispy beards have left much to be desired (Crosby and Jonathan Toews, I’m looking at you two). More seriously, Stamkos further cemented his spot as one of the most dangerous scorers in the league with another stellar season.

 

 

He has the best one-timer in the league. He plays with terrific linemates. He has improved each season (although his goal total dropped by six, he was on pace for about 80 until a midseason slump got in the way). He relies on Martin St. Louis for a lot of his production, but who cares? A goal is a goal – great players work well with other great players because they can operate and succeed at such a high level offensively. His plus-minus rating is nothing to write home about, but he more than makes up for it with his offensive numbers. He was 14th in the league with 272 shots on goal, 25 less than he fired on net in 2009-10. He needs to be closer to 300 or above.

 

One year upside: 55-50-105, 80 PIM

Three year upside: 60-55-115, 80 PIM

 

4. Henrik Sedin


If you are desperate for goals, Henrik isn’t the fourth best center available. If you are desperate for consistency and assists, he may be number two. The Sedin twins entered their prime just as the Canucks made the climb to the top of the NHL. Henrik will always be playing with the best left winger in the game after Alex Ovechkin, something that the other nine on this list can’t say. He has 188 assists in his last 194 games, including both the regular season and playoffs.

 

He probably won’t score 29 again like he did during his magical 2009-10 season, but 18-22 goals per season won’t be a problem for one of the league’s best playmakers.

 

One year upside: 25-85-110, 60 PIM

Three year upside: 25-85-110, 60 PIM

 

5. Nicklas Backstrom


Backstrom was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of the 2010-11 season. His offensive progression since coming to Washington had been incredible – 14 goals, to 22, to 33; 69 points, to 88, to 101. His 18 goals and 65 points this past season were both career lows.

 

 

The Capitals dialed back their high octane system this year, and Backstrom suffered as much as any player (save for Mike Green). Look for him to get back on track offensively in 2011-12 – he’s simply too talented and playing with players who are too talented to continue to slump.

 

 

Backstrom doesn’t shoot the puck a lot, but playmaking centers aren’t often known for exorbitantly high SOG numbers. He had only 20 less SOG this season compared to last, but saw a six percent reduction in his shooting percentage. Time to break out the shooter tutor.

 

One year upside: 30-65-95-50 PIM

Three year upside: 35-70-105-50 PIM

 

6.  Eric Staal

 

 

Eric Staal will get you goals, assists, points (obviously), PIM, and SOG. He led the league in SOG from a center with 296. Aside from missing 12 games in 2009-10, he has missed two total games in his NHL career. He has scored at least 30 goals each season but one. He’s hit the 100 point mark once, and has tallied at least 70 each season but his first. The best is yet to come, as he has never really played with elite top line talent. Carolina has a tremendous crop of prospects, no shortage of which play on the wing.

 

 

There are a few players below Staal on the list who have more offensive upside, but I like him for the sixth spot because of his consistency and ability to deliver for a number of different statistical areas.

 

One year upside: 45-50-95, 50 PIM

Three year upside: 45-50-95, 50 PIM

 

7. John Tavares


It is a question of when, not if, Tavares will score 50 goals in the NHL. As a shoot-first center, he’ll benefit in a big way from the development of many of his young teammates, as well as from the return of Mark Streit. Streit’s impact on the Islanders cannot be ignored – he is an offensive catalyst who immediately will give everyone on the first power play unit an additional boost in production. Tavares is already one of the deadliest players in the game around the net – he combines ridiculous hand-eye coordination with the ability to make plays in space that doesn’t really exist.

 

He’ll be closer to 300 shots (243 in 2010-11) as he grows more comfortable in his role as offensive leader. His plus-minus will improve as the Islanders improve.

 

One year upside: 40-40-80, 60 PIM

Three year upside: 55-45-100, 65 PIM

 

8. Jonathan Toews


On my first draft of this list, I left Toews off. I have always felt that his fantasy value will never truly reflect his value to the Blackhawks in real life. After looking at the numbers and projecting the next couple of seasons, I realized I was foolish for leaving ‘Captain Serious’ on the sidelines. He has proven that he has an extra gear he can shift to in important games (postseason, 2010 Olympics, down the stretch in 2011). He is too smart of a player to ever put up noteworthy PIM numbers, but he fills just about every other standard fantasy hockey category.

 

Dave Bolland will take away some of the defensive responsibilities that Toews faces, but he will still see heavy minutes in tight games and on the penalty kill. He’ll never be given sheltered or easy minutes, which poolies may not like to hear. Toews plays to win, regardless of the magnitude of the game.

 

One year upside: 40-45-85, 30 PIM

Three year upside: 45-50-90, 30 PIM

 

9. Anze Kopitar


The first “surprise” of this list, Kopitar should quickly move up this list once he gets some help in Los Angeles. He is the total package – big, strong, skilled, smart, and almost impossible to knock off the puck. He looks a bit like a young Jaromir Jagr when the puck is on his stick. He plays more of a north-south game than Jagr did, though.

 

 

It is amazing what Kopitar has done in his NHL career without a legitimate top line talent to play with (Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, and Ryan Smyth don’t count). Kopitar’s season ended with a nasty ankle injury, but he is on his way to a full recovery. If/when the Kings find him a legitimate top line winger to play with, expect his production to skyrocket.

 

One year upside: 35-55-90, 30 PIM

Three year upside: 40-60-100, 30 PIM

 

10. Pavel Datsyuk


If this list was for one-year leagues, Datsyuk would be much closer to the top. I polled my twitter followers and many felt that due to age, he should be left off in favor of a younger player. He turns 33 in July, which is considered ancient in the hockey world by some. I simply couldn’t leave him off this list. If you want to win your pool within the next three years, he’s better than any of the honorable mentions.

 

 

Datsyuk’s 2010-11 season projects very well over a full 82-game schedule (he only played 56 due to injury): 34 goals and 87 points. He had consecutive 97-point campaigns in 2007-08 and 2008-09 before having an “off “year in 2009-10 with 70 points. Like Toews, Datsyuk won’t give you much in terms of PIM.

 

One year upside: 35-60-95, 20 PIM

Three year upside: 35-60-95, 20 PIM

 

Honorable Mentions:


Joe Thornton – offense has suffered as his overall game has matured.

 

Ryan Getzlaf – doesn’t fill enough categories, durability is an issue.

 

Ryan Kesler – two-way force, but may be hard-pressed to score 40 again.

 

Matt Duchene – give him a few years to crack the list.

 

Vincent Lecavalier – is Vinny back?

 

Henrik Zetterberg – when healthy, one of the best in the game.


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Comments (19)add comment

Randall said:

The Hockey Hitman
IMO My top 10 would be:
1. A healthy Crosby 2. Stamkos 3. Sedin 4. Staal 5. Toews 6. Malkin 7. Datsyuk 8. Kopitar 9. Backstrom 10. Zetterberg with honorable mentions going out to Tavares, Duchene, Getzlaf.
June 02, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

Zammer said:

Zammer
... Great analysis and love the list. Getzlaf moves way up on my list. I take him ahead of Staal in fantasy and real life. Overall, great work!
May 29, 2011
Votes: -1

mike hess said:

SharkMeat
Great list, but HM Angus...no arguments on the top 10...but the hardest thing to do has to be calling the slow down of a top player. Lacaalier was called last year and I am sorry he needs to fall farther than HM. Great comeback year based on his professionalism and heart as your ? notes will he continue. I think Backes, Carter or Richardson would be a better choice.
Thornton who is finally starting to play a two way game is another question mark...will he continue to slow on the scoring side, so I understand his HM.
May 28, 2011
Votes: +0

Alex McDonald, Age 11 said:

Alex McDonald, Age 11
... Where's Brad Richards? I'd consider him at least even with Lecavalier, and personally I'd trade Lecavalier for Richards in a second.
May 28, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... toad? smilies/smiley.gif

Regin was my worst miss of the year, for sure. His 2009-10 hot streak was just that - a streak.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Rusty Pickles said:

Rusty Pickles
... if your league tallies face off wins Malkin doesn't deserve to be #2. Only player on this list that is absolute dead weight in the dot. For me also the band aid factor would drop Malkin down a slot or two but not too far. Getzlaf is way healthier than Malkin. Toews is top ten real life, not fantasy.


Hey angus, just as an I toad a so, Nick Foligno out pointed and scored more goals than Peter Regin, ALOT more lol smilies/wink.gif
May 27, 2011
Votes: +1

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... Love the debate/discussion, gents.

Kesler - I want to see another year of it. He could do even more with better linemates. This list was brutally tough after the top 5 or 6.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

GMGates said:

GMGates
@ Jeff Lucarelli re: durability

You have a point in regards to Crosby and Malkin - although no one can take Crosby out of the top spot... nobody! haha

Malkin is a different story, if you really wanted to, Stamkos could swap spots with him - but on my terms, I would draft Malkin and trade him afterward. (I actually traded him away this season - after his injury)

Datsyuk is in that gray area - although talent wise top notch. But him too, he could be anywhere in the 8-12 range. Same with Getzlaf. That's the thing though, 5-6 guys could interchange spots making a single solid list that will please everyone impossible.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Mike Brown said:

mbrown
What about Stastny Ya know Angus it's hard to argue with your list and I'm not going to, but when does Paul Stastny get a little love in the hockey community. He's certainly deserving of honourable mention. Clearly the guy played the last half of last year hurt and it hurt his points per-game stats, but he doesn't get the credit he deserves as a scorer let alone a two way star. Where's the love?
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

gfunkb7 said:

gfunkb7
... I don't think Datsyuk's, Crosby's and Malkin's injuries make them non durable players. Without having all Games Played stats in my possession, I doubt they've been constant 'question marks'. On the other hand, Zetterberg, with the exception of this season, is more of a liability.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

mick said:

hawkdog
just for interest sake here is the top scoring centers in one of my keeper leagues for 10/11 - WHL
surprised Kesler is not on the list. Maybe Backes earns an honourable mention for his 30/30/30 and 90+ PIM?


All Centers Year to Date NHL Standard Stats
PlayerTeamGPGAPTS+/-PIMPPGSHGSOG FPTS
Kesler, Ryan C VAN Boston Bruins824132732466153 260649.7
Stamkos, Steven C TB Chicago Blackhawks82454691374170272643.5
Staal, Eric C CARMontreal Canadiens81334376-1072123 296598.0
Toews, Jonathan C CHIBoston Bruins803244762526101233583.4
Sedin, Henrik C VAN California Golden Seals8219759426408157566.2
Backes, David C STLToronto Maple Leafs82313162329350211520.0
Carter, Jeff C PHIDetroit Red Wings80363066273980335 510.1
Richards, Brad C DALColorado Rockies7228497712470272 505.7
Kopitar, Anze C LA Washington Capitals75254873252061233503.2
Briere, Danny C PHIWinnipeg Jets77343468208760246 495.0
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Lucarelli said:

jeffl97
In response to GMG If you want "durable" guys then why is Malkin number 2. He's not only missed more games than Getzlaf the past 2 seasons, but his injuries have also been way more serious. Datysuk and Crosby both missed a lot of time this season as well. Crosby also missed a lot of time in the 07-08 season, but he's still number 1. I wouldn't say that 2 seasons of missing 15 games or so puts him out of the top 10 when he was obviously in there before. Besides for fantasy purposes the only season Getzlaf really missed was 09-10, because in 10-11 he was there for the playoff run + stretch and could have easily carried your week on his back. I would take the proven PPG+ player over players like Kopitar and Toews who have failed to ever hit even PPG numbers (although Kopitar was close). Just my opinion, of course, but I think Getzlaf earned his spot in this list.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

GMGates said:

GMGates
No Getzlaf? no problem! Like tweeted - I'll back up Angus on no Getzlaf in Top 10.

I want durable guys and like Laidlaw mentioned in his last Cage Match, "I am not saying that Getzlaf is a band-aid boy, but I am saying that his having played in only 66 and 67 games in each of the last two seasons respectively is starting to concern me."

~ well me too!

Let's face it, the 9th and 10th spot could be any of the HM's spots! So if you dislike Kopitar or Tavares - simply put Kelser, Zetterberg or Getzlaf etc.. in there. No biggie.

Great read Jeff,
GMG
May 27, 2011
Votes: +1

Maximus said:

Mr Zizzla
Getzlaf - agreed Great breakdown Angus, although i think it's pre-mature on Tavares being that high. after next year i believe he will be a legitimate top 10 C and stay that way for a while but not just yet. That being said, i would swap Getzlaf in there.

i bitch about the Canucks more than anyone on here (i think) but i would have to sneak your man Kesler in at 10. He's been a beast ever since his coming out party at the Olympics (well from an East Coast perspective) and his scoring touch this year was awesome. Granted he will always be the #2C in VAN but that powerplay is so lethal that his net front presence just screams PPP! Hank and Danny could just bank pucks in off him as they are that precise.

my top 10

1. Crosby
2. Malkin
3. Stamkos
4. Sedin
5. Backstrom
6. Getzlaf
7. E. Staal
8. Kopitar
9. Toews
10. Kesler

wow seems really strange not having Datsyuk in there but the age and injuries are slowly catching up to him.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

praba said:

praba
... i think getzlaf should have been there instead of kopitar, but agree with everyone else on the list. good job
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

myron said:

cannon
... I too think that Getzlaf should be in the top 10 at the expense of Toews but hey its your list.

Keep up the good work, this is by far my favourite and the most helpful series of articles on this site... no offence to the other great writers.

PS Malkin's 3 year upside was added up incorrectly... it should be 130 not 140
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Lucarelli said:

jeffl97
Getzlaf I would place Getzlaf in top 10. If G/A/PPP are your main concerns then Getzlaf is a stud. He has the ability to get 30+ goals, but with Corey Perry on his wing those numbers will probably stay around 25. The ducks have one of the best powerplays in the league so Getzlaf will get his fair share of PPP, and he is feeding the rocket richard trophy winner in Perry. Since February he had 39 points in 27 games. Yes, he had back to back seasons with injuries but they were totally unrelated. Once was his ankle, the other he took a puck to the face. Even with his shortened season he still had 76 points which is more than Kopitar, Tavares, Backstrom and tied with Toews, Staal while they all played more games than him.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... I usually look to fill G/A/PPP first and then focus on peripherals. Lots of different ways to build a fantasy team. Thanks for the reply.
May 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Very Good Great list.

Too bad you get bashed for being a Canuck-homer because (per my numbers) Ryan Kesler's complete games makes him easily a top 10 center in a 6-category. PIM & +/- can be significant contributors to overall fantasy value. Any of Kesler, Briere, and David Backes could have been top 10 over the gentlemanly passers like Datsyuk & Kopitar.

Still... a very sharp list with a TON of great insights!
A+ smilies/smiley.gif
May 27, 2011
Votes: +1
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