The NHL Network has released their listing of the top 20 centers. As usual, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have cracked the list.
Here’s some of the dirt on the two Penguin stars. First with Malkin, who checked in at No. 18:
Knee surgery caused Malkin to miss the first three months of last season, but the 36-year-old still finished with 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games, the 14th time in 16 seasons he has averaged at least a point per game. Malkin, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), is fourth among active players in goals (444) and points (1,146), and tied for fourth in assists (702).
“‘Gino’ is one of the all-time greats in this game,” NHL Network Analyst Mike Rupp said. “…I think he’s going to be super motivated this season in Pittsburgh and you might see him even higher on this list next year.”
And then on Crosby, who ranked fifth behind Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon and Leon Draisaitl:
Crosby tied for the Penguins lead with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 69 games last season. It was the 10th time he’s scored at least 30 goals and the 11th time he’s had at least 84 points. Crosby also led Pittsburgh in power-play points (30), game-winning goals (nine), face-off wins (760) and face-off attempts (1,450) while averaging 19:58 of ice time per game. The 35-year-old, who has won the Stanley Cup three times (2009, 2016, 2017), is second among active skaters in goals (517) and points (1,409), and first in assists (892).
“There’s some players that I have a certain statistical category (for): how you influence a game through 82 games, and there might not be many better than Sidney Crosby still at this point,” Rupp said. “The way he influences it offensively, defensively, leadership, all the things. Sidney Crosby is still an elite [center].”
The rankings are in-line with the input of hockey fans from the internet surveyed by Jfresh. Crosby finished fifth to the same four above him via the fan rankings, and Malkin finished 17th.
In the past a common question has been over the classification of Draisaitl as a center, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. The German Oiler star took way more faceoffs than Connor McDavid at even strength, on the power play and short handed last season to boost his credentials as a center, which ends that talking point about his positioning.
Overall, with the goals and the points that the match of star centers (who are almost a decade younger than Crosby) put up, it’s tough to get too out of shape about placing him fifth now at age 35.
The placement of Malkin is always interesting and bound to stir up debate and opinions. A list like this, however, shows how fortunate the Penguins are to have retained a top-20 center in the league who should continue to be one of the more productive players in the game, so long as he can keep his availability high. Because like Beau Bennett taught us, the best ability is availability.