Positional Power Rankings: Top 10 centres by the numbers

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If we were voting for this year’s NHL first and second all-star team today, who would be the top 10 candidates at centre? That’s the question we’ll try to answer here, looking solely at statistics from this season. Here’s our monthly update on the top 10 performers at centre in 2015-16.

1. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (47GP | 25G | 28A | 53PTS)
Seguin continues to run away with the scoring lead among centres, even as he’s slowed down a little over the past month. He’s nine points up on Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, which is insane given that there isn’t a nine-point gap between any of the other centres listed here. If the offence wasn’t enough the Stars also dominate the shot clock when Seguin is on the ice; his line has both finishing skills and strong puck possession. He’s also winning 56.5 per cent of his faceoffs. Last month ranking: 1

2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (45GP | 18G | 23A | 41PTS)
Although there isn’t much separating the non-Seguin centres on this list offensively, Bergeron separates himself from the pack thanks to his defensive chops. Colleague Andrew Berkshire called him the NHL’s “single greatest defensive weapon” last week and he made a compelling case. Last month: 2

3. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (43GP | 15G | 29A | 44PTS)
Last month I wrote that Washington out-scored the opposition by a 2:1 margin when Backstrom was on the ice. That’s since improved to a 7:3 margin. The crazy thing isn’t the offence, or even the quick recovery from off-season hip surgery, though; it’s the way that Washington coach Barry Trotz has been using Backstrom. Of the players on this list, only Bergeron starts a greater percentage of his shifts in the defensive end of the rink and Backstrom is also a regular on the penalty kill. Combine that with point-per-game production and he’s a hard player to overlook. Last month: 4

4. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks (44GP | 22G | 21A | 43PTS)
Only five players in all of hockey have more goals than Pavelski this season, and among centres he’s behind only Seguin. If he were a one-trick pony that would be extremely impressive, but he’s so much more. Not only does Pavelski see a steady diet of top-end competition, but when he’s on the ice the Sharks are consistently dominant on the shot clock and outscore their opponents by a 2:1 margin. He still plays on the penalty kill, though not as often as in years past, and he wins 56 per cent of his faceoffs. Last month: 7

5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (49GP | 19G | 16A | 35PTS)
Based solely on offensive production, Toews still doesn’t belong on this list, though he’s finally hitting his stride after a weak start to the year in that department. He has 10 goals and 19 points in just 16 games since we last looked at centres, a streak which brought a dramatic end to previous a 10-game run in which he’d managed just one goal and two points. It’s not a coincidence that Chicago went on an 11-game winning streak when Toews broke out of his funk.

As always, Toews’ most impressive contributions are defensive. No forward in the game faces tougher quality of competition than Chicago’s captain. He wins 59 per cent of his draws, averages 1:28 per night on the penalty kill and still manages to have better on-ice shot metrics than are common on an insanely good Chicago team. Last month: NR

6. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (45GP | 13G | 27A | 40PTS)
Like Toews, Kopitar wouldn’t make a top-10 list determined solely by offensive production. However, he’s a pretty decent scorer, consistently plays against tough opposition and does a good job helping his line out-shoot and out-score the other team. He’s also one of just three players on this list (Bergeron, Backstrom) who starts more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. Last month: NR

7. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche (47GP | 22G | 16A | 38PTS)
Duchene is tied for second among centres with 22 goals this season, and his 2.22 points/hour at even-strength is the best number in Colorado and ranks him 18th overall in the NHL. Colorado has a 32-30 edge in shots when he’s on the ice at evens; when he’s on the bench the Avs get out-shot 30-25. Last month: 9

8. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (45GP | 20G | 24A | 44PTS)
Malkin continues to be the one guy who Pittsburgh can rely on to score goals in any situation. He leads the club in even-strength points (23) and power play points (20). That’s probably why he’s getting such a massive push offensively, being deployed heavily in the offensive zone even relative to his peers on this list. Last month: 3

9. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (46GP | 15G | 33A | 48PTS)
Kuznetsov ranks first among Capitals players in even-strength production, with his 32 points in that department five clear of Alex Ovechkin and eight clear of Backstrom. He’s playing in a relatively sheltered role by top centre standards, but the offence is just too much to ignore. Last month: NR

10. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (38GP | 11G | 25A | 36PTS)
Draisaitl is still among the leaders in the NHL in terms of points/game, but he’s cooled considerably after a lethal start. He scored seven goals in his first 10 games, but has just three in his past 26. He’s tied with Jamie Benn for the NHL lead in five-on-five points/hour. Last month: 6

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