EA Sports has revealed the top 10 centers in NHL 17.
As with other skaters, there are six rating categories that go into a center’s overall rating: puck skills, senses, shooting, defense, skating, and physicality.
10. Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers: 91 Overall
Claude Giroux has 5-star skating ability, 93 rated deking, and 94 rated puck control.
The 28-year-old Giroux has always been one of the most dynamic and creative players in the NHL. His biggest strength is his ability to make plays in tight situations and dish out beautiful passes to his linemates, but he is a dangerous goal scorer as well. Giroux has always been a notoriously slow starter, but he’s one of those players who revs into high gear in the second half of the season.
Last season was particularly tough for Giroux, but his fellow Flyers superstar Jakub Voracek struggled as well. Both men did find their stride eventually and were instrumental in pushing Philly into the playoffs. When G is hot, he can put up points at an alarming rate. He is one of the league’s premier talents, and 91 overall a little low for Claude Giroux—92 or 93 would probably be more appropriate.
9. Nicklas Backstrom – Washington Capitals: 91 Overall
Nicklas Backstrom has 94 rated passing and 94 rated puck control.
The steady Swede has been one of the best playmakers in the NHL since he began his career back in 2007. Backstrom has always held the enviable job of passing the puck to Alex Ovechkin, the greatest goal scorer of this generation. Backstrom and Ovechkin have long made the Washington Capitals power play one of the scariest in the league, with the one-two punch of Backstrom’s silky passes and Ovi’s howitzer of a shot. His Russian teamate has long overshadowed the Swede, but Backstrom is a phenomenal player in his own right.
In addition to making plays out of seemingly nothing, Backstrom is capable of scoring timely goals and playing an airtight defensive game. While Ovi soaks up the fame and dominates the highlight reel, Backstrom quietly goes about his business as one of the most productive and reliable centers in the league. Backstrom’s 91 overall rating is well deserved.
8. Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks: 91 Overall
Ryan Getzlaf has 5-star physical abilities and puck skills. He also boasts a powerful shot, with 91 rated slap shot power and 90 rated wrist shot power.
Getzlaf has always been a force on the ice. The 6’4” center uses his hulking size and strength to push other players off the puck and land bone-crushing hits. He also has keen hockey sense, great playmaking ability, and a very hard shot.
Unfortunately, at 31, Getzlaf’s most productive seasons are probably behind him. His 63 points this past season were a far cry from the 87 points he put up just two years before that. However, despite Getzlaf’s offensive decline, he is still a pivotal piece of the Anaheim Ducks, doing fantastic things without the puck and leading the team as its captain. 91 overall is way too high for Getzlaf, but he is still a valuable player offensively and defensively and one of the toughest customers on the ice.
7. Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars: 92 Overall
Tyler Seguin has 93 wrist shot power and 92 wrist shot accuracy. He uses this weapon to make goalies look foolish regularly.
The history of Tyler Seguin is a turbulent one. After being drafted second overall by Boston in 2010, Seguin became a key part of the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run. However, the relationship between Seguin and the Bruins brass became strained when the young center started partying a little too hard. The Bruins grew weary of Seguin’s shenanigans and sent him to Dallas, where he blossomed into one of the best players in the NHL. It’s tough to say what would have happened if Boston was a little more patient with their young star, but their loss is Dallas’ gain.
Seguin has been tearing up the league over the past few seasons with his partner-in-crime Jamie Benn. Benn and Seguin are one of the most dangerous duos in the league, and when they’re both rolling, there isn’t a lot that can stop them. Despite the impressive numbers Seguin has put up recently, at 24, he has just scratched the surface of his offensive potential. Seguin is 92 overall in NHL 17, but 93 would probably be more appropriate.
6. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins: 93 Overall
Evgeni Malkin has produced at a point-per-game pace over the past five seasons, but the dazzling center has struggled with injuries during that time. Fortunately, injuries can be turned off in NHL 17, so Malkin and Penguins fans can watch him work his magic with impunity.
Geno is a Band-Aid boy, a player who can be relied upon to spend at least a chunk of the season on the injury reserve. However, when the Russian is healthy, he is otherworldly. Some players always seem to find themselves in the highlight reel, and Malkin is one of them. Some of the things he can do with a stick and a puck are spellbinding. Malkin looks like he was beamed down from a different planet sometimes, as he zips around the ice making dekes and dangles look effortless.
Malkin shares the stage in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, but he is a superstar in his own right, excelling as both an expert playmaker and goal scorer. Injury has marred Malkin’s recent seasons, but the last time he played more than 70 games he put up 109 points. Hopefully, this year he can stay healthy enough to put up similar numbers. Malkin is rated 93 overall, but I would probably put him at 94.
5. John Tavares – New York Islanders: 93 Overall
John Tavares has 5-star puck skills, shooting, and senses. However, his speed is a weakness.
At 25, Tavares is on the cusp of becoming one of the all-time greats. When he put up 86 points in 2014-2015, there was a sense that he could do better. Unfortunately, Tavares regressed this past year, only putting up 70 points. 2015-2016 was a very tough season for Tavares. The Islanders were knocked out of the playoffs by the Lightning this spring in deflating fashion, so how the Islanders’ young captain responds in 2016-2017 should be telling.
While he isn’t the fastest skater, Tavares’ skill with the puck and his hockey sense are exceptional. He is one of those players who know where to be on the ice at all times, and this usually results in a goal. Tavares is rated 93 overall, which is where he should be. He may have struggled last year, but his talent is undeniable.
4. Anze Kopitar – LA Kings: 93 Overall
Anze Kopitar won the 2016 Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward. He may not have the offensive talent of the other centers on this list, but his play without the puck is what makes him special.
Kopitar was a central fixture on two Stanley Cup winning teams in Los Angeles, teams that were successful in large part because of his stingy defensive play. LA usually has the lowest goals against in the league, and Kopitar is a huge reason for that. This spring he was rewarded for the thankless task of keeping the puck out of his net with a Selke, but he has been putting up Selke caliber seasons for years.
The Kings recently made an eight year $80 million dollar commitment to the 28-year-old, showing the hockey world what this gifted center means to their organization. The pride of Slovenia may not light the world on fire with his point totals, but he is still a reliable offensive contributor, scoring beautiful goals and setting them up regularly. Kopitar is rated 93 overall, which is spot on. It’s tough to compare defensive players like Kopitar with offensive dynamos like Malkin and Seguin, but he deserves to be in the same conversation as these superstar centers.
3. Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning: 94 Overall
Steven Stamkos has 5-star puck skills, skating, senses, and shooting.
The two-time Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy winner is a goal scorer in every sense of the word. In 2011-2012, he potted 60 goals, and the list of players who have done that is short. Stamkos is incredibly fast, and he has great hands and a wicked shot. This all adds up to a goal-scoring machine. The explosive center used to be the toast of the town in Tampa Bay, but that was before the Triplet line came onto the scene. Since the emergence of Johnson, Palat, and Kucherov the Lightning captain has seen reduced playing time and most notably a reduced role during the Lightning’s march to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-2015.
With Stamkos’ contract set to expire, rumors were swirling around the league that 2015-2016 would be his last year in Tampa Bay. Then, in a twist that shocked everyone, Tampa Bay signed Stamkos to a long-term deal. Clearly, Steve Yzerman and the T-bay brass still value this offensive catalyst—as they should. Scoring goals in today’s NHL is hard. While Stamkos is a singular talent, 94 overall is too high. He’s not as multidimensional as other centers on this list, and he’s not as gifted a pure goal score as Alex Ovechkin (who is also rated 94).
2. Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks: 94 Overall
Jonathan Toews has excellent skating, defensive awareness, stick checking, and a great shot to boot.
Toews is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He won a Selke in 2012-2013, and he is in the conversation for the award every year. Toews is tough to knock off the puck, and he uses skill and strength to both generate scoring chances and keep them from happening in his defensive zone. Toews was once a point-per-game player, but his point totals have declined in recent seasons as he has focused more on the defensive side of the game. While Patrick Kane carries the offensive load in Chicago, his buddy Toews soaks up tough minutes in the defensive zone and does the yeoman’s work of keeping the puck out of their net.
That said, Toews can still score, and he is a threat to do so every time he steps onto the ice. His leadership helped lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups, and the 28-year-old is hungry for more. This guy is a winner, plain and simple. Toews is a bonafide two-way talent, but his 94 overall rating is slightly too high. He should be rated the same as Kopitar.
1. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins: 95 Overall
The highest rated player in NHL 17 has elite passing, speed, physicality, hockey sense, and a deadly shot.
Sidney Crosby has long been dubbed the best hockey player on the planet—a title well earned. Since his rookie season, Crosby has put up obscene point totals. He is capable of scoring some of the most breathtaking goals you will ever see, but his greatest strength offensively is as a playmaker. Crosby’s passing and playmaking skills make everyone on his line a better player. Defensively, he uses his strength and stick skills to work the puck away from opponents and his stocky frame to protect it. Whether keeping the puck out of his net or creating space to generate a scoring chance, Crosby employs a workmanlike attitude and dogged determination. He’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas on the ice, and he can grind against the boards with the nastiest players in the league.
The 2015-2016 season started off as a struggle for Crosby. However, when the Penguins replaced their coach halfway through the year, a switch flipped and he rounded back into form. After going on a tear in the second half of the season, Crosby hoisted a Stanley Cup and took home the Conn Smythe. At 29-years-old, this generational talent is still in his prime, and he has many years of domination left in the tank. He is rated 95 overall, which is right on the money. However, I think Dallas’ Jamie Benn should be right there with him.
Crosby may be considered the best there is by most, but with so many talented players on the rise, his crown may not be safe for long.
That wraps up EA’s list of the top 10 players at each position in NHL 17. What do you guys think? Are any of the players mentioned in these lists rated too high or low? Are there any notable players missing from the lists? Let us know in the comments.
NHL 17 hits shelves September 13 for Xbox One and PS4. For all your NHL 17 updates SGO has you covered.