Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Our postseason hockey rankings continue.
This time we're dealing with centers, the players who can make or break your fantasy hockey team.
Most of the players on this list either exited in the first round of the playoffs or missed the playoffs altogether.
But we don't discriminate here at The Sports Network. It doesn't matter what color sweater you're wearing or how good your team is as long as you can put the puck in the net. And all 10 of these players can certainly do that. Get ready for the best of the best: the NHL's top ten fantasy centers from the 2011-12 season.
10. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings : Though not as impressive as he has been in years past, the 31-year-old from Sweden was still a very serviceable fantasy center in 2011-12. His goal total hasn't fluctuated much at all over the past three seasons (23 in 2009-10, 24 in 2010-11 and 22 this season) and Zetterberg remains one of the better distributors in the game (47 assists). What's most impressive about Zetterberg is his durability: he didn't miss a single contest this year and he only missed two the season before that. Zetterberg probably won't be in the MVP discussion next year but his consistently solid play makes him hard to pass up.
9. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings : Kopitar is actually still competing against the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference semifinals. Kopitar is a perennial threat for 25 goals, a feat he accomplished again in 2011-12 (he had 25 goals exactly, the same amount he accumulated in 2010-11). His 51 assists was eighth-best in the NHL and his plus/minus was +12, the second-best rating of his career. The former first-round pick's success in the regular season has carried over into the playoffs too: he has one goal and four assists so far in six games against the Canucks and Blues.
8. Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins : I'm sure Seguin would have liked to have won his second Stanley Cup in a row this season but the 20-year-old's sophomore campaign could hardly be considered a failure. This was the year Seguin ascended into fantasy super-stardom. He led his team in goals (29), points (67) and his plus/minus rating of +34 was second in the NHL behind teammate Patrice Bergeron. We'd expect Seguin to be ranked even higher on this list when we sit down and write it again after next season.
7. John Tavares, New York Islanders : Tavares was taken by New York as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft and it's looking like a pretty wise selection. Tavares blew up for a career-high 31 goals and 50 assists during 2011-12 and was invited to his first NHL All-Star Game. Who knows what Tavares could have accomplished if he had played with some half-decent linemates. The Islanders scored the third-fewest goals in the NHL this season (196).
6. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks : Is there a more unselfish player in the NHL than Henrik Sedin? This guy has tallied 225 assists over the last three seasons. Sedin not leading the league in assists would be like Sheldon Cooper not freaking out about somebody else sitting in his seat. It just never seems to happen. Sedin did his best to keep the Canucks afloat against Los Angeles in the first round (two goals, three assists) but in the end, the Kings were just too good.
5. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators : Spezza had several very productive seasons in the mid-2000s but since 2008 he had been pretty quiet, which is why he was ranked only the 101st best player in fantasy hockey coming into this season. But in 2011-12, Spezza was anything but quiet. He tied a career-high with 34 goals and his 50 assists was his most since 2007-08. The Rangers outlasted the Senators in a seven-game first round series last week but without Spezza's three goals and two assists, Ottawa would have been lucky to even make it to Game 7.
4. Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks : The 33 goals and the 36 assists are nice but what really stands out is Sharp's incredible +28 rating. Sharp was one of just four non-Bruins with a plus/minus rating higher than 25. That number may have been even higher if Sharp hadn't missed eight games with a wrist injury in mid-February.
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers : Giroux's smile would give any orthodontist a nightmare but that's nothing compared to the nightmare he's been for opposing goalies in 2011-12. The 24-year-old had 93 points this year (28 goals and 65 assists) and he's been dominant in the postseason (six goals, eight assists in his first six games). He was ranked as the 38th-best player in fantasy hockey at the start of the regular season. By the end, Giroux was ranked fifth.
2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning : The Lightning missed out on the postseason this year but you can't blame Stamkos for that. The fourth-year center from Canada did all he could for the Bolts, blitzing his way to a career-best 60 goals. Stamkos became the first player to reach the 60-goal mark since Alex Ovechkin, who found the net 65 times in 2007-08. At age 22, it looks like Stamkos should be able to do this for a long time.
1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins : Somebody had to carry the Penguins with Sidney Crosby on the sidelines, and that somebody was Evgeni Malkin. Nobody in the NHL came close to his 109 total points (50 goals, 59 assists) and when all the ballots are counted for the NHL's MVP Award, Malkin will almost certainly come out on top. Malkin also collected eight points in a losing effort against Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.