Ranking the Metro Division’s Top 10 Centers

Islanders captain John Tavares ranks second among the Metro Division's top centers. Who else made our top 10?

Islanders captain John Tavares ranks second among the Metro Division’s top centers. Who else made our top 10?

The Metro Division features some of the league’s best centers. In fact, some marquee stars make up the top five. It consists of former Hart winners and finalists for MVP. With a strong crop along with some emerging stars, it’s safe to say that the Metro is deep at pivot. Let’s take a closer look at who are the division’s best.

1.Sidney Crosby Penguins The 28-year old superstar remains one of the games best players. A two-time MVP, Crosby is the East’s top center. Sid The Kid has been healthy the past two seasons totaling 188 points (64-124-188) in 157 games. Until proven otherwise, he takes our top spot.

2.John Tavares Islanders At 24, the Islanders franchise center is finally emerging as one of the game’s best. He continued to improve in ’14-15 achieving personal bests in goals (38) and points (86) in all 82 to lead the Isles back to the playoffs in their final season on Long Island. That performance earned him a second Hart nomination. As he continues to improve, so too do the Isles’ chances of finally making a deep run.

3.Claude Giroux Flyers The 27-year old is one of the league’s top pivots. Over the past five seasons, Giroux has averaged over a point-per-game totaling 376 points (119-257-376) in 370 games since ’10-11. That consistency is why we have him third in the Metro.

4.Evgeni Malkin Penguins Despite injuries that have prevented him from playing a full season since winning the Art Ross in ’08-09, the former Conn Smythe winner one of the game’s most physically gifted players. Since entering the NHL, Malkin has averaged over a point-per-game in eight of nine seasons. In fact, the 29-year old has tallied 268 goals and 434 points for a whopping 702 points in in 584 career games. That’s good for 1.20 points-per-game. When healthy and motivated, he is as good as anyone.

5.Nicklas Backstrom Capitals One of the game’s true play-makers, the 27-year old Backstrom is a smart pass first center who makes teammates better. With 60 assists in 14-15, it was the fourth time in his career that he totaled 60-or-more. In the Caps’ first round win over the Isles, he produced some of his best hockey notching six points (3-3-6). The Swede quietly continues to perform at a high level producing 572 points (145-427-572) in 577 career games.

6.Ryan Johansen Blue Jackets Only 23, the Vancouver native backed up a breakout year by setting personal bests in assists (45) and points (71). There’s no doubting his ability. Can he carry an improved Jackets into the postseason?

7.Derek Stepan Rangers A heady two-way pass first pivot, the 25-year old Stepan has excelled in all situations for the Blueshirts including as one of the club’s top penalty killers. Despite missing 14 games last season, Stepan registered 55 points (16-39-55) ranking third in team scoring. Most notable has been his clutch play in the postseason setting up tying and winning tallies against the Caps and scoring the series clincher in overtime. His 27 points (10-17-27) are second best on the team the last two playoffs.

8.Derick Brassard Rangers The 27-year old Brassard anchors the Blueshirts top line. In the first year of a new contract, he proved up to the task setting new career highs in goals (19), assists (41) and points (60). He continues to perform in the postseason pacing the team with 16 points (9-7-16) including a hat trick and two assists staving off elimination against the Lightning. Since joining the Rangers roster, nobody has more points in the playoffs than Brassard who’s totaled 40.

9.Eric Staal Hurricanes Even at 29, the elder Staal remains his team’s most important player. A former Stanley Cup winner who’s spent his whole career with the Canes, Staal has topped 20 goals nine times including 30-or-more five in a brilliant 11-year career. Overlooked is that he’s been very durable only missing 22 games. Consider that he’s put up 312 goals and 430 helpers for 742 points in 846 games. That’s very impressive. It’s a important season with Staal in a contract year. Does he want to stay in Raleigh for the rebuild or will he wind up elsewhere?

10.Brandon Dubinsky Blue Jackets There’s no doubting what the 29-year old Alaskan brings to the table. A gritty checking center who plays on the edge, Dubinsky isn’t easy to play against. Just ask his opponents. Unfortunately, his physical style has led to injuries. In ’14-15, he missed 35 games. When healthy, he makes an impact. In only 47 contests, Dubinsky tallied 36 points (13-23-36) and 43 penalty minutes. A pest who is critical to his team’s success, the Jackets need him on the ice.

Honorable Mentions:

Evgeny Kuznetsov Capitals The sky’s the limit for the talented 23-year old Russian who did in the Islanders. A breakout is without question.

Sean Couturier Flyers Already an effective checking pivot, the 23-year old is on the verge of breaking through.

Ryan Strome Islanders In Year 2, the 22-year old proved fully capable as the club’s second center achieving career bests in goals (17), assists (33) and points (50). The former 2011 first round pick should only get better.

Elias Lindholm Hurricanes Only 20, the 2013 fifth overall pick improved in his second year registering 17 goals and 22 helpers for 39 points in 81 contests. The Swede has good potential.

Adam Henrique Devils Offense was at a premium for the Devils last year. Henrique’s one of the few forwards capable of finishing. A bounce back year isn’t out of the question.

Kevin Hayes Rangers His rookie year was impressive. Hayes was a solid contributor netting 45 points (17-28-45) as the club’s third center. The question is will he remain there or shift to the wing?

That’s gonna do it for center. Do you agree with our top 10? Would you change the order? Is there someone I missed? Without a doubt, a couple of players didn’t make the cut. At season’s end, we’ll see how we did.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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