2021 Fantasy Hockey Center Rankings
Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: December 2, 2020.
- Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
- I'm going to do something bold. Put Sidney Crosby at the top of my 2021 Fantasy Hockey Center Rankings.
- Sidney Crosby was drafted first overall in 2005 by the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Penguins won an NHL Lottery during the lockout to draft the star center on the Rimouski Oceanic. Sidney Crosby may be due for a signature season or a comeback season because Pittsburgh has had at least one injury on their top line each of the past three seasons which has kept Crosby from playing up to his potential for fantasy owners despite being huge during the Penguins two playoff cup runs.
- If Crosby has Jake Guentzel and Kasperi Kapanen stepping up with both Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin assisting him as first line defensemen, then I honestly believe Crosby could lead the NHL in points for the first time in quite a while. In order for that to happen, the Pittsburgh Penguins must go the entire season without any of their line 1 skaters getting injured. My gut instinct tells me Crosby puts together a strong season. Nobody is going to post 100 fantasy points unless the NHL decides to make do with an 82 game season, and I honestly doubt that happens with Covid-19.
- Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
- Connor McDavid is one of the best prospects I ever evaluated with the NHL Draft. I knew he would be special when he got drafted first overall by the Erie Otters in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection. He's been as good as advertised since the Edmonton Oilers drafted him first overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. You can argue that he's now the new face of the league rather than Crosby and has been for quite some time. He's been the face of the Western Conference. McDavid has 3 consecutive seasons of over 100 points following his rookie season. He even had 97 points in the shortened 2019-2020 NHL Season due to Covid-19. Like Crosby, I have a first round grade on McDavid in Fantasy Hockey.
- Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Auston Matthews was drafted first overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Toronto took the ZSC Lions center first overall and never looked back. He played all 82 games as a rookie. His best +/- ratio was +25 as a sophomore. Auston Matthews point total has increased significantly as a first line center since Toronto added John Tavares as a second line center while giving Tavares team captain honors over Matthews. Matthews had 73 points in his third season and 80 points in 2019-2020 last season during the regular season. Auston Matthews, the guy on the cover of NHL20 made by EA Sports, warrants a first round pick in Fantasy Hockey.
- Nate MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
- The Halifax Mooseheads don't regret giving the Baie Commeau Drakkar three first round picks in the QMJHL for MacKinnon. Shortly after, Colorado took him first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Nate MacKinnon had a 1 point in each game of the playoff bubble except game 7 against the Dallas Stars as Colorado's first line center. Nate MacKinnon's consistency speaks for itself which is why Nate MacKinnon is another Fantasy Hockey center that warrants a first round grade. MacKinnon tallied 93 points or more in each of the last three seasons so his consistency makes him a huge asset for Fantasy Hockey Owners.
- Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres
- Jack Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award at Boston University and got picked second after Connor McDavid in 2015 despite that. He did well enough to become the first line center on the Buffalo Sabres as a rookie like McDavid and has maintained that role for five years in a row. His last two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres have been his best. He may do even better this year with left winger Taylor Hall complimenting him on that first line. Jack Eichel is the final center in these rankings with a first round grade.
- Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers
- Aleksander Barkov was drafted second overall behind Nate MacKinnon in 2013 by the Florida Panthers. Now Barkov is captain of the Florida Panthers. Barkov had 96 points playing all 82 games in 2018-2019. Barkov's production declined in a shortened season. That was due to a coaching change. Joe Quinville will be in his second season as the Florida Panthers head coach, so I expect Barkov's point production to be more consistent. It's hard to say how many points he will get in a shortened NHL season with Covid. He is talented enough to warrant a second round grade in Fantasy Hockey.
- John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
- John Tavares was a line 1 center and team captain on the New York Islanders for many years before signing with Toronto in the 2018 NHL Free Agency Period after being the first pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, and the very first OHL prospect to be granted exceptional status. Tavares may be a line 2 center behind Auston Matthews, but he's also the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's the most reliable second line center in the NHL. He has 5 82 games seasons under his belt, so durability is not a question with the 30-year-old Tavares. He put together a respectable 60 points in 63 games. I have a third round grade on Tavares.
- Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers
- Leon Draisaitl peaked last season when he won the Art Ross Trophy as he led the NHL with 110 points in 71 NHL games during the regular season. Maybe he will do it again, but nothing is certain in a shortened 2021 NHL Season. Draisaitl was drafted third overall in 2014 before Edmonton got McDavid with the top pick. Draisaitl is a third round prospect on my Fantasy Hockey rankings because he will get less minutes than McDavid unless Ken Holland gives him first line minuts, but don't be surprised if he gets picked in the first round of your average Fantasy Hockey League.
- Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Evgeni Malkin was drafted second overall in 2004. He's been the second line center on the Pittsburgh Penguins for many seasons. He outproduced Crosby in points in two of the last three seasons which is why you should take Malkin by the third round at the very latest.
- Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets
- Mark Scheifele's play with the Winnipeg Jets has been superb the last two seasons. He was once considered the biggest reach in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but he's been the best value pick in that draft after Winnipeg drafted him seventh overall back in 2011. He's been an impact player on the Jets for years and I have a fourth round grade on Scheifele for Fantasy Hockey owners.
- Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Steve Stamkos, the former Sarnia Sting center drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning is the team captain of the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions. Stamkos can rack up close to 100 points if he plays a full 82 game season. His durability concerns throughout his career put him at 11 on my rankings. Even though I have a fifth round grade on him, he can provide second round value when he's healthy so if you take him in the second to fourth round before the fifth round, it's not reaching.
- Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Brayden Point led the Lightning in points getting lots of first line minutes with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the playoff bubble. Point asserted himself as a top 12 center in Fantasy Hockey. Point was a player that fell to the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, and he made his NHL debut in 2016 with his point total increasing in each of his four seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. I currently have a fifth round grade on Brayden Point for Fantasy Hockey.
- Sebastian Aho, C, Carolina Hurricanes
- Sebastian Aho is one of the NHL's more consistent centers. He's only 23-years-old and still has two more years where he can improve before he hits his peak. He's one of the leagues most reliable point producers and should be picked by the fifth round of your Fantasy Hockey Drafts. Aho has never won 50 percent of his face offs, but winning face offs doesn't translate to points in Fantasy Hockey.
- Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers
- Sean Couturier was the line 2 center behind team captain Claude Giroux for many years in Philadelphia. Last season, Philadelphia moved the 32-year-old Giroux over to left wing while promoting the former Drummondville Voltigeur from the 2011 NHL Draft up to Philadelphia's first line after being a member of the Flyers organization for eight seasons. Couturier is turning 28-years-old so if Giorux and Couturier remain on the top line in Philadelphia, that Flyers top line will produce points.
- Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders
- Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin led the Stars in points during the regular season. He had this spot until he decided to get surgery on November 3, 2020, which will keep him out five months meaning Seguin will not return until April 3, 2021, at the earliest. This caused me to readjust my original rankings after the top 14 players if you read this article and managed to make it this far, also if you want to see how this affects Dallas scroll down to 38.
- Let's get back to Barzal though. Mathew Barzal was my biggest steal in the 2015 NHL Draft, as I mocked him as high as sixth overall to the New Jersey Devils, he's filled the void that John Tavares left, after Tavares signed with Toronto. Mathew Barzal dominated with 85 points in his rookie season on the second line behind John Tavares, and played 82 games in his second season with New York getting 62 points after Tavares left. He still put up 60 points and is a huge playoff performer. Barzal got the Islanders to the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals on a team that I thought had no chance of beating the Flyers.
- Look for Mathew Barzal to have another strong season with the Islanders. My biggest issue with Barzal is that he hasn't signed his RFA offer sheet to return to the team so until that gets handled he cannot practice with the Islanders. If Barzal struggles it will be due to Lou Lamoriello not handling this contract situation properly after winning GM of the Year this past season. The fact that Barzal's fantasy production has declined in each of his first three seasons is another legitimate reason to call Barzal a boom or bust pick in Fantasy Hockey. However, if you can get him by the seventh round, then at that point you have to pull the trigger.
- Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver Canucks
- Elias Pettersson has matched his 66 point total in each of his first two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks after being taken fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He made the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers look foolish for taking Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick over him. I wasn't high on Petersson, that year, but its great to see him filing that void the Sedin Brothers left and emerging as a franchise player on a team that knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. He's a guy that fantasy owners could reach for as early as the second or third round, but I have a seventh round grade on him. It's possible I'm not ranking him high enough, and if that's the case that's my fault.
- Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
- The third pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, spent a season at North Dakota before joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-2008 when they drafted Patrick Kaine first overall in 2007. Toews did so well in his rookie season that he got named team captain of the Blackhawks prior to 2008-2009 and is still the captain of Chicago in 2020 heading into the 2021 NHL Season. Jonathan Toews is a great leader and he's the most consistent center in the NHL despite being ranked at 17 due to his no movement clause which keeps the Blackhawks from trading or releasing him.
- Asking me why I put Toews at 17 is a fair question since he led Chicago to three Stanley Cups as team captain. He's never had a 100 point season, but he's won 53 percent of his face offs each year dating back to his rookie season which is just incredible.
- He's allowed more goals than he's scored in terms of +/- ratio during the regular season in two of the last three seasons which is the only other reason he comes in at 17. Toews is still a great player, but his speed when skating along with his defensive play have declined slightly once he turned thirty a few years ago. Despite this, he's the modern day version of Steve Yzerman as a player who also wore 19, and is also a Taurus like Toews.
- Nobody is perfect, and even with age beginning to catch up, Jonathan Toews is still easily a top 20 center in the NHL despite being unhappy with Chicago trading Brandon Saad to Colorado. If Jonathan Toews is there in the seventh round grab him because he's a safe fantasy hockey selection for any Fantasy Team even if he's not a sexy fantasy pick.
- He may not be the top 5 center he once was earlier in his career, but any Blackhawks fan will tell you that Toews is awesome player and even a better person when interacting with fans because he's been squeaky clean off the ice his entire career. Basically, Toews is like the honors student with all check marks and no - marks on their permanent record.
- Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings
- Speaking of Stanley Cups, Los Angeles won two after taking Anze Kopitar eleventh overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. How in the hell did Kopitar drop to 11? To be fair, back in 2005 I was entering my freshman year of High School, and in my defense Crosby, Ryan, and Price were the only players I saw highlights of leading up to this draft.
- Anze Kopitar may not get you 100 points, but like Toews he's reliable. He has six NHL seasons with 82 games played and eight seasons with 81 games played if you want to get technical. He's also won over 50 percent of the face offs that the Los Angeles Kings have had on the first line with Los Angeles dating back to 2011-2012, when the Kings won the Cup as the 8 seed. I have an eighth round grade on him for Fantasy Hockey, so I won't give you too much crap if you take Kopitar early at some point in the seventh round strictly due to his consistency.
- Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins
- Patrice Bergeron only has one season in his career where he +/- ratio was in the negative and that was back in 2006-2007 when he had 70 points. He's also the best face off center in the NHL outside of Jonathan Toews. That's enough of a reason to justify putting him in my top 20 for Fantasy Hockey centers despite his age. Bergeron is also probably been the most consistent playoff performer in the NHL the last five years so it's hard to say where he goes. I have an eighth round grade on Bergeron, but I saw one Fantasy Hockey mock draft place Bergeron in the second round. You may have to reach for Bergeron if you want him on your fantasy team.
- Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings
- The fifteenth pick in the 2014 NHL Draft looks like one of the steals from 2014. He had a good rookie season which resulted in him being the sixth Red Wing to make the NHL All Star Game as a rookie in 2016 and after his sophomore slump, he bounced back with two strong seasons. He struggled last year, but in his defense, I predicted Detroit would be the worst NHL team back in 2019, which they were. Larkin is a top 20 center in the NHL, so it kind of baffles me that he went undrafted on NHL.com's Fantasy Hockey Mock Draft for 2021.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals
- Last season, the 28-year-old Evgeny Kuzentsov supplanted the 33-year-old Nicklas Backstrom as the line 1 center on the Washington Capitals. Ever since Barry Trotz left, after the Washington Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup when Backstrom was still the first line guy with Ovechkin, the Capitals just aren't the same team and are even suspect defensively. I wouldn't take Kuznetsov or Backstrom before the tenth round in Fantasy Hockey.
- Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals
- The fourth pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft was a reliable player who complimented Alexander Ovechkin for many years. He's still effective, but not the player he once was. Unless he's available in the tenth round, I'd pass on him since he's due for a decline soon.
- Sean Monahan, C, Calgary Flames
- Sean Monahan has been on the Calgary Flames dating back to the 2013-2014 NHL Season after he got drafted sixth overall. He's been the leader of Calgary's core of centers for seven years. There were rumors he'd be traded in the offseason by many Youtubers. Those rumors turned out to be false. Monahan has played 70 games or more in each regular season dating back to his rookie year. You could argue he's the most durable center outside of Anze Kopitar on that statistic alone which is why these rumors about trading Monahan turned out to be hogwash. Calgary knows what they got in Monahan and realize how valuable he is.
- At the same time, if Calgary wants to move Monahan, Sean has to sign off on it since he's under contract with the Flames until 2023. You know Calgary is going to want a premium return at least a 2nd this year and a first in 2022 or 2023 for a team to entertain the idea of obtaning Monahan. Also Sean would get to pick the team. Jim Rutherford has a 2021 second round pick and a 2022 first round pick. Rutherford could move Brian Dumoulin and Jake McCabe, save 1 million in cap space, and get Monahan for one more cup run and at that point, Sean would sign off on that. Monahan will be a Flame for the forseeable future unless a team wants to make a premium offer for Monahan involving $6-million dollars worth of player salaries plus draft picks.
- Sean Monahan is a player I would take in round 11 of a 17 round Fantasy Hockey draft. He may be gone by the tenth round so if you want him, you may have to reach for him.
- William Karlsson, C, Vegas Golden Knights
- William Karlsson is the Vegas Golden Knights best center. He's a good fantasy option in round 12.
- Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks
- Bo Horvat is a durable center who is great with face offs. He's not going to create scoring opportunities at will like Petersson, but Horvat is the ideal player to compliment him in Vancouver as Vancouver's 2013 first round pick is a top 25 center in the NHL despite being 25-years-old.
- Nazem Kadri, C, Colorado Avalanche
- Nazem Kadri had a signature season with the Avalanche after Toronto opted to part ways with him. He's a good line 2 player to compliment Nate MacKinnon. He could go as early as the seventh round, but I have a thirteenth round grade on him. If you need a center between rounds 7-13 in Fantasy Hockey then this is a player to keep an eye on.
- Brayden Schenn, C, St. Louis Blues
- Brayden Schenn and Ryan O'Reilly is a good combination at center. Ask any St. Louis Blues fan who witnessed their team win the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. I have a thirteenth round grade on both centers.
- Ryan O'Reilly, C, St. Louis Blues
- Brayden Schenn and Ryan O'Reilly is a good combination at center. Ask any St. Louis Blues fan who witnessed their team win the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. I have a thirteenth round grade on both centers. Ryan O'Reilly was huge during their playoff run despite the fact that Schenn is projected on the Blues top line.
- Adam Henrique, C, Anaheim Ducks
- Adam Henrique got to play on the first line last year even though Ryan Getzlaf has been the Anaheim Ducks center for a majority of his career when he's healthy. I'm not sure if the Ducks will use Henrique, Getzlaf, or Sam Steel on their first two lines, but those top two centers on Anaheim are good late round additions around the fourteenth round.
- Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks
- Ryan Getzlaf was a first line center like Nicklas Backstrom for many years. He's still a good player witht he Ducks, but with Henrique and Sam Steel pushing him to the limit for a job on the Anaheim Ducks first two lines one has to wonder when Getzlaf declines. Take him in the fourteenth round if he's there.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Some people said Columbus should have taken Jesse Puljujarvi over Pierre-Luc Duobis at 3. Heck, I think I was guilty of this as I felt the former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle was a floor player rather than a ceiling player, turns out I was wrong and Columbus got a great first line center even though you can certainly make the case that Pierre isn't an elite center. Columbus got this call right, and you can argue that Winnipeg should have gone Pierre-Luc Dubois over Patrik Laine. I'm not going to comment on Laine trade rumors until we get to the winger rankings. So take Pierre-Luc Dubois if he falls to the fourteenth round because honestly, he's a bargain at that point.
- Eric Staal, C, Buffalo Sabres
- Buffalo made a great trade getting line 1 center Eric Staal from Minnesota without giving up a first round pick. Eric Staal's line mate on the second line is former Carolina Hurricane Jeff Skinner. I got a fifteenth round grade on Eric Staal because I think he's someone you can get late and he will be surprisingly good enough to warrant a late round pick. His only 100 point season came after the NHL lockout, and Carolina won the 2006 Stanley Cup that year. Staal also has 7 years of experience as the Hurricanes captain and got traded to the Rangers before signing with the Wild after his family chose to move to Minnesota. Staal provides a center who compliments Eichel as well as a man who can mentor Eichel motivating Jack to elevate his game.
- Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey Devils
- Nico Hischier, the former Halifax Moosehead and first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is the line 1 center on the New Jersey Devils. He earned a promotion to alternate captain with the New Jersey Devils got his payday and the Devils are committed to him for the long-term.
- Nico Hischier is not a bust, but New Jersey's decision to take him over Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Elias Petersson looks questionable in hindsight since his point total dropped in each of his first three seasons. To be fair, Hischier has done better than Nolan Patrick, who entered that draft as the consensus top prospect before injuries piled up for the former Brandon Wheat King who the Flyers selected at 2 three years ago.
- Nico Hischier got $7,250,000 per year for five years when the New Jersey Devils extended him this offseason. New Jersey needed to keep their top pick, but I honestly feel like the Devils overpaid Hischier to a degree. I'm not trying to take anything away from Hischier, but he went from 52 points as a rookie in 82 games with the Devils in 2017-2018 to 47 points in 69 games to 36 points in 58 games. Also his +/- ratio declined in each of the first three seasons as well and paying someone like that $7.25-million per year for five years when you can probably deal him for a draft pick would have been a lot smarter even if it set your team back in the short-term.
- Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Elias Petersson have every right to demand $8-million for extensions since all 3 of those player that enter the last year of their rookie deals this season are all more deserving of what Hischier received, while Hischier is worth about $5-million at the very most if we're being realistic.
- Nico Hischier could go as early as round 12 in Fantasy Hockey. He could also go undrafted. I feel the fifteenth round is the right spot to gamble on Hischier if you want him on your team.
- Paul Stastny, C, Winnipeg Jets
- Paul Stastny was a good line 2 center with Colorado when Matt Duchene was there before the team drafted Nate MacKinnon back in the day. He went to the Vegas Golden Knights and was effective there. Vegas cuts him to sign Alex Pieterangelo. Winnipeg got Stastny to add some depth at center behind Mark Scheifele on their second line so I'm kind of curious to see what he can do. Winnipeg is loaded with wingers on their top two lines so Stastny is worth a flyer if you can get him in the sixteenth round.
- Kirby Dach, C, Chicago Blackhawks
- The 19-year-old Kirby Dach, was drafted third overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The former WHL stud from the Saskatoon Blades split playing time on the second and third line with Dylan Strome as a rookie. Dach is expected to beat out Strome for the line 2 center role behind Jonathan Toews. Dach is the ideal candidate to learn under Toews and Chicago just needs to develop Dach and hope he becomes good enough to succeed Jonathan Toews. Take Dach in the sixteenth round of your Fantasy Hockey drafts.
- David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins
- David Krejci is still a talented player. He's great with face offs. I just feel like the 34-year-old centers best years may be behind him. If he's available in the seventeenth round of a Fantasy Hockey Draft you can gamble on him as a utility player.
- Cody Glass, C, Vegas Golden Knights
- The former Portland Winterhawk was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights sixth overall in 2017. He finally cracked the Vegas Golden Knights roster and got third line minutes behind William Karlsson and Paul Stastny. He did alright in that role, but Glass has to fill the void Stastny left if the Vegas Golden Knights want to get to the Stanley Cup since Glass was the Golden Knights first draft pick in team history.
- Joe Pavelski, C, Dallas Stars
- Dallas will have to rely on their second line center Joe Pavelski and Radek Faksa who they recently extended his contract this offseason with Tyler Seguin out five months after sugery. Seguin could recover for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but right now Dallas has a really uncertain situation in the short-term. Team captain Jamie Benn will need to lead the NHL in points in order for Dallas to have a shot of returning to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021 after making the 2020 Stanley Cup during the playoff bubble.
- Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville Predators
- Ryan Johansen is a first line center on the Nashville Predators. He's one of the leagues worst first line centers, but playing on the top line gets you more opportunities to create points in Fantasy Hockey so he's someone to consider in the seventeenth round.
- Matt Duchene, C, Nashville Predators
- Matt Duchene rounds out my top 40. There is a reason he's no longer on Colorado and Ottawa. He's effective in the role he's in for the short-term. Only take Duchene as a utility player in round 17 much like the other round 17 players.
2021 Fantasy Hockey Center Rookies For Dynasty Leagues
- Quinton Byfield, C, Los Angeles Kings
- Quinton Byfield signed his rookie deal, so they can play him for 9 games in the NHL without it counting against the first year of his rookie deal. Honestly, he's good enough to make the jump to the NHL right now. However, I feel like the Kings will send him back to the OHL for a year before they bring him up in 2021-2022 once all the Covid stuff clears up that way he goes into a situation where he has the best chance to succeed.
- The Los Angeles Kings have Anze Kopitar on the top line, and Kopitar should remain there until he retires. Jeff Carter is talented enough to play through his contract in 2022 unless the Kings are out of contention by the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Blake Lizotte is nothing more than a sollid back 6 role player who is a nice short-term fit on the third line. With Lias Andersson projected on the fourth line. Andersson struggled on the fourth line with the New York Rangers and got demoted to the Hartford Wolfpack. I don't see him lasting on the Kings even though he's an RFA after this season because the Kings have too many centers in their farm system. I think this is a short-term outlook for the Kings with Quinton Byfield going back to the OHL for 2021 and Vilardi playing in the AHL for the second year of his three year rookie deal as he continues to develop.
- In a year from now if the 2021-2022 NHL Season starts due to Covid, you are looking at Anze Kopitar on the top line. Quinton Byfield on the second line learning under him, Jeff Carter on the third line in a contract year, and then you have Blake Lizzotte and Gabe Vilardi competing for the final fourth line job. Los Angeles has a shot to make the playoffs in 2022 if all five of those centers are on the roster with LA having the flexibility to bring Lizotte or Vilardi up if an injury occurs.
- In due time, Byfield will emerge and succeed Kopitar at some point in the next five years if he reaches his ceiling with Vilardi having the chance to earn the right to be the second line center behind Byfield if he reaches his ceiling by the time he's 25-years-old. Byfield has to develop, but his ceiling is higher than Kopitar's so if he reaches his ceiling he can take over for Kopitar when he retires.
- Quinton Byfield is not someone you should draft in Fantasy Hockey for 2021 unless he makes the Kings final roster. On the flipside, he is someone who you must stash in Dynasty Hockey leagues that let you draft rookie centers from the 2020 NHL Draft. If Byfield pans out I think you're getting anywhere from 15-21 seasons with 18 seasons being a realistic benchmark.
- Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota Wild
- Marco Rossi is in a similar situation as Quinton Byfield as he's the only player from the 2020 NHL Draft on our center rankings for Dynasty Leagues to sign his rookie deal. Unlike Los Angeles where they will ease Byfield in, Minnesota may have to rush Rossi up. The Wild lost three centers to trades or Free Agency, and to be honest the guys they brought in through Free Agency are worse than the guys they had last year. At the same time, the guys they brought in are stop-gaps until Rossi reaches the NHL and takes over the top line. Rossi will be on Minnesota by 2022-2023 at the latest, and he will either play for the Iowa Wild or return to the OHL for 2021 most likely.
- Anton Lundell, C, Florida Panthers
- Anton Lundell should be on the Florida Panthers third line as early as 2021-2022, but unlike the top 2 centers who got picked ahead of him, Lundell remains unsigned after being a top 10 prospect that managed to fall to Florida at 12. He should start out as a third line center and work his way up the roster and eventually be a very good second line center that compliments Aleksander Barkov. Lundell either has to wait to earn a line 1 role in the NHL until Barkov leaves or retires after being a line 1 guy in Finland, or he will most likely end up being a second line center.
- Mavrik Bourque, C, Dallas Stars
- Dallas had Mavrik Bourque at 16 on their draft board right outside the top 15. He fell to the Dallas Stars at 30 and is the only center from the 2020 NHL Draft that is currently a team captain on the Shawinigan Cataractes where he currently has 3 goals, 3 assists, and 6 points in 4 games before the QMJHL shut down due to Covid-19. Like Anton Lundell, he has not signed his rookie deal yet so he will not play. NHL teams have until a draft pick turns 20-years-old to sign that player to their rookie deal. If Dallas manages to sign Bourque, I think he may get a nine game trial in the NHL before being sent down to Shawinigan. Bourque is the best value pick I've seen an NHL team draft at 30 since the Anaheim Ducks got Sam Steel back in 2016 who also happens to play center.
- Connor Zary, C, Calgary Flames
- Connor Zary will return to the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL and like the other players he hasn't signed his NHL contract. Sean Monahan is under contract until 2023. Mikhail Backlund is under contract until 2024 as the second line center. Sam Bennett, the former Kingston Frontenac that Calgary took fourth overall back in 2014, is gonna be a restricted free agent with Calgary for the very last time in 2022 assuming Calgary wants him back.
- Having all three of those centers complicates things in the short-term, but gives Calgary the flexibility to keep Zary in the WHL until he turns 20-years-old. After he turns twenty he should sign his rookie contract which would allow, Zary to go to either Stockton or Calgary for further development if necessary until his three years on his rookie deal are up. At that point, Zary can demand a one-way contract to the NHL in five years, but until then Zary will have to earn every minute he gets as he contiues to develop his game.
- Brendan Brisson, C, Vegas Golden Knights
- Brendan Brisson led the Chicago Steel in points and won USHL rookie of the year before the Vegas Golden Knights took him in the first round. He moved to left wing on the Michigan Wolverines after enrolling their, but managed to remain on the first line. Once Brisson signs his rookie deal with Vegas, he's no longer eligible to return to Michigan, but since Brisson took the NCAA route, he can stay in Michigan for up to four years before signing his rookie deal with the Vegas Golden Knights which usually lasts 3 years with a minimum of 900,000 per year. This means the longer Brisson stays at Michigan, the longer Vegas can wait before they have to extend him and pay him.
- If Brisson plays all four years at Michigan before signing with Vegas, then the Golden Knights won't have to give Brisson a contract extension before 2027. It would also mean he won't be an unrestricted Free agent until sometime in 2030 or beyond. You have to give Vegas some credit here for getting a great player who they can develop longer than any other team.
- Hendrix Lapierre, C, Washington Capitals
- Hendrix Lapiere was drafted first overall in the QMJHL back in 2018. He fell to the Washington Capitals due to injuries after being a preseason top 15 prospect. I see him developing and eventually becoming the successor to Backstrom since the Capitals can keep him on the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and if he still needs to develop they can give him up to three years on the Hershey Bears in the AHL before bringing him up to the NHL.
- Jack Finley, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Jack Finley reminds me of Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Basically, he's Point with the body of Stamkos. Tampa Bay can keep their 2020 draft pick in the WHL and either bring him up to the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL when he's 20 or groom him to be the guy who replaces Stamkos if Tampa Bay decides to trade Stamkos at some point down the road due to the team captains constant injuries continue. Worst case scenario, Finley ends up as a third line center behind Stamkos and Point when he finishes developing.
- Roni Hirvonen, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Toronto has Auston Matthews and John Tavares locked up. I had a first round grade on Roni Hirvonen, but he fell to the late second round. Unlike with Tampa Bay where they can groom Finley for a top 6 role, Hirvonen's ceiling is Toronto's third line as long as Matthews and Tavares are on Toronto.
- Alex Young, C, San Jose Sharks
- Alex Young was the San Jose Sharks seventh round pick. Outside of the first nine rookie centers that all went in the first three rounds, Alex Young was a player I had as a dark horse in the fifth round of my seven round 2020 NHL Mock Draft. He had up to 80 points in the AJHL so if he continues to develop, there's an outside chance he becomes an NHL center on the San Jose Sharks one day.
Draft Utopia 2021 Fantasy Hockey Rankings