The Stanley Cup Final ended more than a month ago and the 2015-16 NHL regular season is more than two months away. There’s not much going on out there. So, with great trepidation, we took on the task of ranking the top 25 NHL players at each position. We did this a couple of years ago and you, uh, totally agreed with every single player’s ranking and generally thought we did a wonderful job. You most certainly did not suggest we were hockey know-nothings who should never attempt such an undertaking again...
Here’s our projected ranking of the NHL’s top 25 centers in 2015-16. A couple of introductory thoughts: The NHL is loaded with great centers, making this the most challenging position to gauge. We stand by our efforts but we’re mentally prepared to be mercilessly second-guessed on this one. For example, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Colorado’s Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon might rate among the NHL’s top 10 centers by the end of the 2015-16 season, but we don’t think they’re quite there yet so you’ll find the Avs pivots on the outside of the top 25 with the rest of the ‘Honorable Mentions.’ That’s also where we put 18-year-old phenoms Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – mostly for the novelty of seeing them at the bottom of some d(r)aft rankings for a change.
The NHL’s top 25 centers in 2015-16:
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh: We’ll take the emperor Penguin by a beak over the best Blackhawk and mightiest Duck.
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago: Just win, baby.
3. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim: Anyone else get a Mark Messier vibe off this guy?
4. John Tavares, NY Islanders: He’s freed the franchise from 25 years of bad.
5. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh: The most individually dominant player in the NHL.
6. Steve Stamkos: Tampa Bay: His broken leg behind him, he’ll be motivated to get back to (and win) the Stanley Cup final. We expect big things, 50 goals and then some.
7. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles: A two-way force with few peers.
8. Tyler Seguin, Dallas: Will another Star lead the league in scoring for the second year in a row?
9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit: He’s still one of the best all-around players in the world, but he’s 37 and has been injured for long stretches in four of the past five seasons.
10. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia: You didn’t think Jakub Voracek broke out all by himself, did you?
11. Patrice Bergeron, Boston: If he put up a few more points he’d be perfect.
12. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington: He’s like Ron MacLean to Ovechkin’s Don Cherry.
13. Ryan Johansen, Columbus: Anyone else get a Ryan Getzlaf vibe off this guy?
14. Joe Pavelski, San Jose: Quietly finished in the top five among NHL goal-scorers in each of the past two seasons.
15. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay: You may remember him from such hit TV series as “Undrafted NHL Players Who Led Their Team To The 2015 Stanley Cup Final.”
16. Logan Couture, San Jose: Some guys just look like they love to play hockey, which makes sense when you can skate and shoot like Couture can.
17. David Backes, St. Louis: Bangs bodies, scores goals, takes names.
18. Joe Thornton, San Jose: Only 17 players in NHL history have more assists than Thornton, and only six players last season had more assists than Thornton.
19. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver: He's the one that passes to the one that shoots.
20. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota: Probably won’t get his due until the Wild make some noise in the playoffs.
21. Jeff Carter, Los Angeles: His blend of size, speed and shot release make him lethal in the offensive zone.
22. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton: The Oilers’ soon-to-be No. 2 center for the next 15 years behind Connor McSomebody.
23. Jiri Hudler, Calgary: He’s evolved from an undersized upstart on the Wings to a veteran leader on the Flames.
24. Eric Staal, Carolina: Can he get back to 30 goals and 70 points or are those days gone?
25. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim: Very few teams can match the Ducks’ Getzlaf-Kesler combo down the middle.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Spezza, Dal; Matt Duchene, Col; Derek Stepan, NYR; Sean Monahan, Cgy; Derick Brassard, NYR; Valterri Filppula, TB; Tomas Plekanec, Mtl; Paul Stastny, StL; Tyler Toffoli, LA; Bryan Little, Wpg; Kyle Turris, Ott; Jori Lehtera, StL; Nathan MacKinnon, Col; Ryan O’Reilly; Buf; Jordan Staal, Car; David Krejci, Bos; Filip Forsberg, Nsh; Nazem Kadri, Tor; Brandon Sutter, Pit; Evgeny Kuznetsov, Wsh; Mike Ribeiro, Nsh; Brandon Pirri, Fla; Mathieu Perreault, Wpg; Nick Bjugstad, Fla; Colin Wilson, Nsh; Artem Anisimov, Clb; Alex Killorn, TB; Mika Zibanejad, Ott; Martin Hanzal, Ari; Alex Galchenyuk, Mtl; Ryan Strome, NYI; Adam Henrique, NJ; Mark Scheifele; Wpg; Brayden Schenn, Phi; Mike Fisher, Nsh; Frans Nielsen, NYI; Craig Smith, Nsh; Mikael Granlund, Min; Patrik Elias, NJ; Brandon Dubinsky, Clb; Sean Couturier, Phi; Aleksander Barkov, Fla; Travis Zajac, NJ; Tyler Ennis, Buf; Elias Lindholm, Car; Zemgus Girgensons, Buf; Connor McDavid, Edm; Jack Eichel, Buf.
NHL Top 25 rankings by position:
Top 25 NHL left wingers
MORE NHL COVERAGE ON YAHOO SPORTS: