Centers of Attention

Ryan Getzlaf's numbers have increased in each of his four seasons.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's relatively simple picking the top-two NHL centers in fantasy hockey, it's what you do from there on out which likely determines the winners and the runners-up.

Below are our Top-10 fantasy centers.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh - As I said above, there is no real argument about No.1 or No.2 - Malkin's Penquins teammate Sidney Crosby. Malkin is ranked No.2 overall, behind Alexander Ovechkin primarily because good left wingers are in shorter supply than good centers. He does everything very well, played every game, won the scoring title and led the league in assists while still getting off 290 shots.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh - Crosby had 103 points (33 G, 70 A) yet ask anyone who owned him and they'll say his year was mediocre. The bar is set obscenely high for this superstar. He won't use it as an excuse, but he wasn't healthy last season, although he missed only five games, he played hurt in many more.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim - Getzlaf's numbers have increased in each of his four seasons, from 39-to-58-to-82-to 91 in 2008. He could be the next member of the 100-point club. His 100+ penalty minutes don't hurt either. He will miss most of the preseason while recovering from sports hernia surgery.

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit - Datsyuk might be too much of a team player to win a scoring title, which is great for the Red Wings, but doesn't help us fantasy players. He works at both ends of the ice as his plus-34 rating will attest and still had enough energy to post a 32 G, 65 A = 97-point season.

Jeff Carter, Philadelphia - Whenever the Flyers needed a big goal last year, Carter produced it. He jumped to a new level, increasing his point total from a pedestrian 53 in 2007 to 84 in 2008. He was second to Ovechkin in goals with 46. No reason for the trend not to continue, although another 30-point increase might be too much to ask.

Marc Savard, Boston - Savard has always been a solid assist man, but his 25 goals were the second most in his 12-year career. Add in a solid plus-25 rating and you have a top-10 center.

Joe Thornton, San Jose - Though his numbers have drop significantly since his 125-point season in 2005, he's still been able to produce 388 points in 304 game in his three and-a-half years in San Jose.

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington - When you're on a line with Ovechkin, you can't help but be a scoring leader. Despite a slow start (six points in the team's first 14 games), Backstrom finished with 88 points including 66 assists, tied with Getzlaf for third best. He's still on the line with Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, so he'll put up close to 90 points again.

Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit - After a monster 2007 (43 G, 49 A), Zetterberg slipped back slightly last season. He scored 12 less goals and seven less assists as he took 309 shots versus 358 the previous season. The shot total was fifth highest in the league behind Ovechkin, Eric Staal Zach Parise and Carter, but the 10% success rate is down from 14.7% in 2006 and 12% in 2007.

Henrik Sedin, Vancouver - Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been the mainstays in Vancouver and after signing identical five-year contracts in July, they should continue to do so. While Daniel is still the team's sniper, Henrik set a career high with 22 goals last season on just 143 shots. He also had eight game- winning goals. Ninety points in 2009 is not out of the question.

Just missed: Vincent Lecavalier - Tampa Bay, Eric Staal - Carolina, Mike Richards - Philadelphia.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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