Well, hockey fans, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here is part two of the best centerman in the National Hockey League.
Number 5: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
First up, and coming in at number five on this list is Buffalo Sabres savior, Jack Eichel. In the span of just a few short seasons, number nine in blue and gold has firmly established himself as one of the most electrifying players in the game. He’s quick, skilled, physical, and has a killer release. In addition, he’s a threat to make plays and take your breath away on just about every shift. From a statistical standpoint, Eichel is coming off a (pandemic-shortened) campaign that saw him post a mammoth 36 goals and 78 points in just 68 games played, an impressive 1.14 points-per-game average. This guy really is the real deal.
On a Sabres team that’s been fairly lousy over the past 7-8 seasons, things are finally starting to look promising in Buffalo. The club signed free-agent forward Taylor Hall to a one-year, $8 million deal this off-season. Imagine being an opposing team and having to face a one-two punch of Eichel and Hall 20 minutes per night? Now that’s something the passionate fans of Western New York can certainly get behind. Still, only 24 years of age and standing at a towering 6’3, 205 pounds, the sky really is the limit for one of the best players in the show. Look for Eichel and the Sabres to potentially push for a playoff spot this season. Stay tuned, folks.
Number 4: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
If someone told me 10 years ago that a young man from Scottsdale, Arizona would be a number-one overall pick, and one of the game’s best players, I probably would have laughed. Fast-forward five seasons, and we are standing at the precipice for one of hockey’s top centers-his name is Auston Matthews. Playing in the hockey hot-bed of Toronto, Ontario, home to the beloved (or hated) Toronto Maple Leafs is never easy by any stretch. Try telling that to number 34 in blue and white.
Since entering the league as a rookie during the 2016-17 season, Matthews has amassed 158 goals, 285 points, and a plus-37 rating in 282 games. His rookie season also saw him score 40 goals, and take home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie. If you talk to Leaf fans, they would have also made a strong case for “AM34” to be “in the running” for the Hart Memorial Trophy as well as league MVP.
Matthews is a special player because he’s so dynamic and can do so many things on the ice to help his club win. He’s big, strong, possesses incredible instincts, and is like a dog on a bone in and around the net. He’s a proven goal-scorer and just one of those players who you need to be aware of on every single shift. Although the 2020-21 season will likely be shortened, I have big hopes for the Maple Leafs who, led by Matthews, appear to be one of the most dangerous teams in the show.
Number 3: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Standing on the podium at number three is Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. If you’ve never seen him play before, a few Youtube hits and views will certainly make your head turn in many different directions. On a team that’s filled with explosive young talent that includes the likes of Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Bowen Byram, MacKinnon takes the cake as the Avs’ best player and it’s not even close!
Everything MacKinnon does on the ice is purposeful, elite, and done with lightning speed and quickness. This kid is an absolute bullet and is just oozing with raw talent in every facet of the game. For someone as skilled as he is, MacKinnon has an internal engine to him that just never stops. The past three seasons alone have seen the Avalanche star rack up 39, 41, and 35 goals respectively including three-consecutive 90+ points campaigns. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic that ended the 2019-20 season prematurely, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native would have certainly eclipsed the 100-point plateau.
At just 25 years of age, this guy just continues to improve and dominate opponents in ways few others could in and around the NHL. One of the most exciting players in the history of the sport, MacKinnon is simply one of a kind- there’s nothing else to it. Stay tuned, hockey fans, the “Mack train” is about to leave the station!
Number 2: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Coming in as runner-up is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Whether you refer to the Pens standout star as “Sid”, “Sid the Kid”, or “The Next One”, few can argue with his overall skill set, will to win, or his propensity to take any game by storm. To his credit, Crosby has amassed six 100-point seasons and nine 30+ goal campaigns. Oh, and he’s also won three Stanley Cups (2009, 2016, 2017) to go along with a plethora of individual accolades which include the Art Ross, Maurice Richard, Hart, and Conn Smythe Trophies.
Entering his age 33 season, Crosby certainly isn’t a young man anymore but is still as motivated as anyone in and around the National Hockey League. His work ethic is unmatched, his off-season training is strenuous, and his passion for the game remains at an all-time high. I’ve been a huge fan of 87 since he entered the league back in 2005-06 because he is the epitome of a role model for aspiring young hockey players in every stretch of the imagination. He’s well-rounded, humble, competitive, and is always looking for ways to improve his immense talent as a player. There are star players in hockey, and then there’s Sidney Crosby, folks.
Number 1: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
To the surprise of absolutely no one in and around the hockey world, Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid comes in as hockey’s best centerman. Whether he enthralls fans of the game with his speed, slick hands, or his electrifying play night after night, number 97 in blue and orange has quickly become the best all-around talent in hockey.
What makes 97 so popular and dominant as a player is his quiet demeanor both on and off the ice. This coupled with his elite playmaking ability in all three zones each and every night. When he has the puck on his stick there is simply no stopping one of the most gifted athletes in the world. Last season alone saw McDavid score 97 points (34 goals, 63 assists) in just 64 games. Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, he would have easily eclipsed the 100-point plateau for the fourth consecutive season. McDavid is dynamic, electrifying, and does everything at lightning speed. Even the most talented of defenders are made to look silly when they’re up against the Oilers standout stud.
In a league where so many players are in and around the same elk as athletes, McDavid really does stands tall above the rest of the pack. At just 23 years of age, there’s no telling just how good he can be and where he will rank among the game’s all-time greats. If I had a vote, I’d put him in the top-5 of greatest hockey players of all-time-he’s that good.
Honorable Mentions: Elias Pettersson (VAN), Ryan O’Reilly (STL), Sebastian Aho (CAR)
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