Midway through the 2021-22 season, I put lists together on the top 10 players for each position, as well as coaches. It goes without saying that it is a very tough list to do given how subjective it is, but nevertheless I am here to do it once again.
Related: NHL’s Top 10 Goalies for 2022-23
As you will see, there are names on this list that have changed due to some centermen playing exceptional this past season, while others struggled. With that said, here are the current top 10 centermen in the NHL as we get set to enter the 2022-23 season.
10. J.T. Miller
While the Vancouver Canucks haven’t had the success many thought they were in line for the past few seasons, no blame can be thrown J.T. Miller’s way. Since his first season with the organization back in 2019-20, he has put up very impressive numbers, and is finally starting to see the recognition he deserves from it. He received that recognition from the front office as well, as he was handed a seven-year, $56 million extension this offseason.
Miller just ever so slightly missed out on the century mark this past season, ending the year with 32 goals and 99 points in 80 contests. Those numbers on their own are extremely impressive, but are even more so given that the second highest point total on the Canucks belonged to both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes with 68. If his teammates are more consistent in 2022-23, he should be able to post similar numbers.
9. Sebastian Aho
Though Sebastian Aho’s game hasn’t quite jumped into the elite category many thought he had the chance to get to, he is still amongst the best centermen in the game. The 25-year-old is exceptional at both ends of the ice, and is coming off of a career high 37 goal season. His 81-point total was just two shy of his career high, one that he likely would have surpassed had he not been forced to miss three games.
What would be interesting to see is what point totals Aho would be capable of if given a true sniper alongside him. That looked to be the case earlier this offseason when the Hurricanes acquired Max Pacioretty, though the veteran tore his achilles shortly afterward and isn’t expected back until the new year. Nonetheless, Aho’s totals over the years have been very solid and consistent, and has easily established him as a high end centerman in the NHL.
8. Patrice Bergeron
What else can you even say at this point about Patrice Bergeron? At 37-years-old, he continues to play the game at an extremely high level. This past season, he not only put up 65 points in 73 outings, but also won his fifth Selke Trophy, which is a league record. Even more impressive is the fact that he has been a top three finalist for the award for eleven straight seasons.
Barring injury, Bergeron will hit the 1000 point mark this season, as he sits at 982 right now. It will be yet another fantastic accomplishment for his illustrious career, one that will undoubtedly see him be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Unfortunately, it may be the last season we see from him, as he was seriously contemplating retirement this summer. Enjoy his greatness while it lasts, folks.
7. Steven Stamkos
Early on in his career, Steven Stamkos was regarded as one of the most elite players in the game, and was considered to be on the same level as Alex Ovechkin when it came to goal scoring. However, due in large part to injuries, he seemed to drop down from that elite category. That narrative is beginning to change once again thanks to his outstanding 2021-22 season.
For the first time in his career, the 32-year-old Stamkos broke the 100-point marker, registering 106 in 81 games. With Nikita Kucherov out for a significant portion of the season, they needed their leader to step up, and he did so in incredible fashion. Make no mistake; he is still one of the best in the business.
6. Sidney Crosby
Like Stamkos, Sidney Crosby has become quite injury prone in recent seasons. That said, those injuries haven’t appeared to slow him down much, if at all, as he remains one of the games best two way centermen when on the ice. That was the case in 2021-22, as he was on pace for roughly 100 points with 84 in 69 contests.
Gone are the days that Crosby is considered as the best player on a nightly basis in the world. That said, most would agree that if you could add one centerman to your team in a Game 7 Stanley Cup Final, he would be your guy. He is not only a winner, but one of the best to ever lace them up. Based on what he has shown us recently, he still has several great years left in him.
5. Aleksander Barkov
The once extremely underrated Aleksander Barkov has finally begun to receive the recognition he deserves in recent years. He is absolutely incredible at both ends of the ice, and would likely have more than just one Selke Trophy to his name if it weren’t for the brilliance of Bergeron over the years. This past season, he finished third for the award while compiling a career best 39 goals along with 88 points in just 67 games.
One thing that will be worth paying attention to this coming season is his offensive productivity, which may see a slight decrease without Jonathan Huberdeau. The two didn’t play together a ton at even strength last season, but were the main contributors to a power play that was fifth in the league. Regardless of whether or not he does see a slight decline, however, he will remain among the games best.
4. Nathan MacKinnon
It’s so long ago now that it is hard to remember, but there was a time that Nathan MacKinnon was considered somewhat of a disappointment. The 2013 first overall pick regressed following an outstanding rookie season, and was rather average for a number of years following. That all changed in 2017-18, however, as he posted a then career high 97 points, and has remained an elite talent ever since.
This past season, MacKinnon scored 32 goals and 88 points in just 65 games. Injuries have prevented him from reaching the 100-point marker just yet, but you can bet he doesn’t care one bit as he was able to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup Championship earlier this year. He was outstanding in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals and 24 points in 20 outings. His recent eight-year, $100.8 million extension was well worth it from the team’s perspective, to say the least.
3. Leon Draisaitl
It took some time, but fans around the league are finally coming to the realization that Leon Draisaitl is not a by-product of Connor McDavid, but an extremely elite talent who just happens to play on the same Edmonton Oilers team. And, despite the two not playing together at even strength anymore, the German forward has continued to put up unfathomable numbers.
This past season, Draisaitl scored a career high 55 goals, while also tying his career high in points with 110. Even more impressive, however, was what he was able to do in the postseason. Despite playing with a high ankle sprain, he put up an incredible performance, notching seven goals and 32 points in just 16 games. It was a valiant effort, and one that saw him finally begin to get the respect he deserves.
2. Auston Matthews
If the debate was still there heading into 2021-22, it is no longer in doubt; Auston Matthews is currently the best goal scorer on the planet. The 25-year-old is coming off of an iconic season in which he registered 60 goals in just 71 games, helping prove that the torch has indeed been passed from Ovechkin to himself.
Not only did Matthews top both the 50 and 60-goal mark for the first time in his career in 2021-22, but he also established a new career high in points with 106. Some will continue to doubt him until the Toronto Maple Leafs are able to exercise their playoff demons, but the majority have come to acknowledge him as one of the best players in the world.
1. Connor McDavid
Was it ever in doubt? Some have recently tried to suggest that Matthews may be nearing Connor McDavid as the game’s best player, but frankly, it isn’t very close. That is in no means a shot to the latter, but is meant to explain just how great the Oilers captain is. No one in the world comes close to him at this time.
The 25-year-old was magical once again in 2021-22, registering career highs with 44 goals and 123 points. Perhaps the craziest part of it all is that those totals seem somewhat disappointing given that just a season prior he put up a miraculous 105 points in just 56 games, numbers that we haven’t seen at the NHL level in a long, long time. Like Draisaitl, he was even better in the playoffs earlier this year, putting up 33 points in 16 games. The scary thing is, he is only continuing to get better.
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Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.