Left Wing Lock is a pretty good resource during the season, with daily starting goaltenders and line combos. They also sell a Fantasy Hockey Draft Kits, and in the interests of science, I decided to spring for it this year. In addition to providing projections customized to our league scoring (with Face Off Wins/Losses!), they include a massive 450 page PDF full of league, team and player information on the upcoming season. I’ve only just scratched the surface of that PDF, but I’ll definitely be using it in my weekly blog posts.
I’m also going to include insight from their projections into the rest of the draft prep articles, and as they’re the only projections that highlight Faceoffs, let’s dig into Centers. As always, these are the players that ESPN has designated as their primary position, with Dom’s projected Top 10 in the chart below.
Note: these rankings do not take into account PIMs, FOW or FOL and based on an 82 game season.
A guy like Alexander Wennberg is incredibly polarizing when it comes to the analysts. His projected points range from 45 (Dom) to 60 (ESPN) with Cullen and LWL neatly in the middle at 55. On the one hand, it looks like he’s the defacto first line center in CBJ, playing between two very good players in Panarin and Atkinson. On the other hand, the vaunted CBJ powerplay has lost their quarterback in Sam Gagner. For a guy that got a lot of easy assists on the PP last year, can he count on that kind of production again?
Derek Stepan has shown remarkably consistent production, with 57-55-53-55 points in his last four years. At age 28, you’d expect him to get a similar number this season, and most projections agree this year. Dom and LWL both have him pegged for 57 points in his first season in Arizona (having been traded from the Rangers before the draft), while Cullen has him pegged for 51 and ESPN is the most pessimistic at 48. One reason you might want to grab him early: he’s established himself as a pretty high-volume shooter, and after cracking 200 last year all of our projections have him doing the same this season.
Paul Stastny, on the other hand, has been all over the place. He was swinging for the fences in his rookie year, putting up 78 points, and just topped it in 2009-2010 with 79. Since then he’s seen a pretty significant slowdown, collecting only 40 points in an injury-shortened season last year. Here’s why he could be a sleeper pick: the top-line center role in St. Louis (with Tarasenko on the wing) is really up for grabs, with Stastny, young Robby Fabbri, and newly-traded Brayden Schenn all vying for the spot. Cullen is not optimistic, predicting a mere 42 points. LWL says 46, ESPN says 48, and Dom is most optimistic with 52. He’s a fantastic faceoff man though, and with faceoff winning percentage way more important this year, he can add a nice boost.
Looking to build on last year’s success is Sam Gagner, who finds himself in Vancouver after his remarkable career-high 50 points season in Columbus. Can he do it again? All of our projections are pretty pessimistic, ranging from 38-42 points. But I think he could be a surprise candidate for a late round sleeper. The depth chart in Vancouver is wide open, and Gagner could find himself getting some serious power play time. Those extra points add up quick.
Ultimately, there’s lots of centers in that 45-55 point range, so you really need to look for the secondary stats to target one over the other. Tomas Hertl might only be expected to get 45ish points, but he could very well top 200 shots again this year. It’s these secondary stats that will make the difference in close matchups, so choose wisely.