IH Fantasy Hockey 101: The Centers

With every day that passes, we are one day closer to the eventual puck drop on the 2010-11 NHL season. Fantasy Leagues have started to open up and we here at Inside Hockey will give you the scoop each week on how to go about drafting properly and winning your pools and leagues.

Last week, we took a brief look into the goaltending options, and we will touch up on that again in the coming weeks with some sleeper picks included.  This week it’s about the big boys who play down the middle – the Centers.

Keep in mind, we are going to base these discussions off the standard points system for any pools or leagues you may be involved with. The categories that would be used in a standard system are: Goals, Assists, Points, +/-, Penalty Minutes, Power Play Goals, Short Handed Goals.

The one major term to always remember, as if this was a test of memorization back in High School, is “five category”.  Most, if not on all occasions, you want to attempt to draft a five category player. Someone who will help you obtain points in five of the major offensive categories.

Sidney Crosby – the cream of the crop. After a 51 goal campaign last season, Crosby is now truly finding his stride and let the debates rise about him being the best player in the game today.

Nicklas Backstrom – top line Center, first power play unit on one of the scariest units in the league. By the way, he sets up Alexander Ovechkin on most nights.

Henrik Sedin – not that I doubt last year was a fluke, I just can’t see a repeat season statistically from Sedin which is why he does not go as a first choice nor a top center.

Joe Thornton – remember poolies, regular season are where the statistics of value come from in fantasy leagues so Jumbo Joe and his point per game production each year (or more) becomes a very valuable addition to any team. Draft him early if he is available.

Anze Kopitar – since his arrival in the NHL, Kopitar has been a 60 point or better player each year. A solid first line offensive point producer on team that is on the rise in the NHL with a solid power play and a nice bunch of offensively talented skaters should help Kopitar on his bid to being a point per game player.

Brad Richards – one of the better playmakers in the game, with a goal scoring touch of his own makes it difficult to watch Richards drop during your fantasy drafts.  His plus/minus is always a concern on Dallas but if you draft appropriately, you can make up the differential making Brad an early rounder for sure.

Ryan Getzlaf – when you get to dish the puck off to Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, along with already being able to score goals, it’s evident that selecting Getzlaf is a no brainer.

Mike Richards – say what you will about the Philadelphia Flyers this upcoming season but one thing you will not have to worry about is the production from top line skater Mike Richards. He’ll get you all you need points wise, including shorties. A smart bet for an early draft choice.

Pavel Datsyuk – his point production might have fallen off last year from years past but Datsyuk – with a healthy Wings line up – will be right back on par for his point per game seasons as he’s proved time and time again.  Don’t sleep on Pavel and do not let him fall.

Eric Staal – 70 points in 70 games with a depleted roster should be more than enough proof of what Staal should be an automatic lock as an early round draft selection in your fantasy leagues and/or pools.

Honorable mentions (and/or sleeper picks):

Vincent Lecavalier, Matthew Lombardi, Claude Giroux, Saku Koivu, Mike Ribeiro, Marc Savard, Steven Stamkos, Joe Pavelski, Mikko Koivu, Jordan Staal.

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