NHL’s Top 10 Centers for 2023-24: Midseason Update

To start the 2023-24 season, THW put lists together of 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, we are here to do it once again.

Other THW Positional Rankings:

As you will see, there are names on this list that have changed due to some centermen playing exceptionally through the first half of the season, while others have struggled. With that said, here are the current top 10 centermen in the NHL at the midway point of the 2023-24 season.

10. Aleksander Barkov

Aleksander Barkov’s time as being regarded as the game’s most underrated player has passed, though not for the reasons you may think. He is still undoubtedly one of the league’s best centermen. The difference now is that everyone, regardless of how often they watch the Florida Panthers, knows how talented he is.

Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 2023-24 season has once again been a solid one for Barkov, as he has 12 goals and 53 points through 48 games. Considering how much he also brings on the defensive side of things, he should continue to remain on this list for many years to come.

9. Leon Draisaitl

When ranking the league’s best centers simply on talent, Leon Draisaitl is a top-three option in the NHL. That said, he has yet to be his usual dominant self this season. For many players, his 26 goals and 63 points in 50 games would mark a career year. For a four-time 100-point scorer, however, it was a disappointing first half.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner

The good news for Draisaitl is that despite his rather mediocre play, the Oilers are piling up the wins as of late. Given the dominance he has shown year after year, it should only be a matter of time before he gets back to producing video-game like numbers.

8. Sebastian Aho

The Carolina Hurricanes currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division, and Sebastian Aho is a huge reason as to why. In a season where many of his teammates are struggling, he is playing some of the best hockey of his career with 19 goals and 57 points through 49 games. The Canes’ next highest scorer is Seth Jarvis at 31.

Related: Flames Signing Perry May Not Be as Crazy as It Sounds

Aho was in need of a bounce-back season after a mediocre 2022-23 campaign, and he is having just that. Perhaps outside chatter of the Hurricanes needing to add a superstar calibre forward in order to have a chance at a Stanley Cup served as motivation to prove to everyone that he is a superstar in his own right.

7. Elias Pettersson

After a scorching start to the season, Elias Pettersson cooled off briefly but has begun dominating once again. Through 55 games, the 25-year-old Swedish star has 28 goals and 72 points. He is one of several Vancouver Canucks who have been incredible through the first half of 2023-24, which explains why the team is having so much success.

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After a down 2021-22 season, Pettersson took a big step forward with his first season of more than 100 points. If he can stay healthy, he should easily have his second and will be setting himself up for a phenomenal payday this summer.

6. Sidney Crosby

As disappointing as the first half of the season has been for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it would be a heck of a lot worse if it weren’t for the brilliance of Sidney Crosby. Even at the age of 36, Crosby remains one of the best in the game. He is currently on pace for 48 goals, which would mark the second-highest season total of his career.

As good as Crosby remains, one can’t help but wonder how much better his numbers would be on a better team. The fact of the matter is that while they had a great win, the Penguins are no longer the dominant force they were for so much of Crosby’s career. That said, we have seen plenty of magic from the Pens captain before, and perhaps he can wow us again by dragging his team into the postseason.

5. Jack Hughes

It’s hard to believe there were many who questioned the eight-year, $64 million deal the New Jersey Devils gave Jack Hughes. It was fair to be hesitant at the time, as he hadn’t shown much to that point early in his career and was instead paid for his potential. Sometimes that pays off for teams, other times not so much. For the Devils, it worked better than even they could have imagined, as they now have one of the best bargain deals in the entire league.

Over the past three seasons, Hughes has quickly turned into one of the top players in the game, and he is still just 22 years old. Injuries have hampered him a bit this season, but when healthy he has dominated with 17 goals and 49 points in 37 games.

4. J.T. Miller

Ever since joining the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2018-19 season, J.T. Miller has gone from a nice complimentary piece to a legitimate star. As good as he’s been in recent years, however, he has been an entirely different beast in 2023-24.

J.T. Miller Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Through 55 games, Miller is up to 70 points. That has him on pace for 104, which would shatter his career-high 99 set two seasons ago. Similar to what was said about Pettersson, Miller’s play is a huge reason why the Canucks have been a great team this season.

3. Auston Matthews

It is undeniable at this point that Auston Matthews is the game’s best goal-scorer. In a down season by his standards in 2022-23 he still managed to pot 40. Now, back to 100% health, he has a league-leading 45 through just 51 games. He appears to be well on his way to locking down his third Rocket Richard Trophy by season’s end.

Related: Flames Should Reach Out to Ducks About Potential Zegras Trade

The one critique surrounding Matthews, and a fair one at that, is that he has yet to deliver in the postseason. His play has dropped off when the games matter most, as proven by the fact his points per game in the playoffs is much lower. That said, this list is simply taking in what these players have done through the first half of 2023-24, and there is no doubt he’s been one of the best.

2. Connor McDavid

Through nearly the first 20 games of the 2023-24 season, Connor McDavid appeared human, after all. The Edmonton Oilers captain was playing at roughly a point-per-game pace, and his team was struggling as a result. Now past an injury sustained early in the year, he is back to dominating and will likely find himself on the top spot on this list once again by season’s end.

Through 48 games this season, McDavid has 21 goals and 80 points. That puts him on pace for significantly less than the 64-goal, 153-point season he had a year ago, but is still extremely impressive given how slow he started.

1. Nathan MacKinnon

One thing Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t done much of since entering the league is win personal hardware. While he won the Calder Trophy in 2013-14 and Lady Byng in 2019-20, it’s rare for players of his caliber to finish their career without at least on Art Ross and Hart Trophy, and you can bet that it’s weighing on him.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While there is still half a season to go, MacKinnon is the frontrunner for both. The Colorado Avalanche captain has 32 goals and 89 points through just 55 games, putting him on pace for a ridiculous 132 points on the season. Should he stay anywhere near this current pace, he should have both a Hart and Art Ross Trophy to his name.