Training camps have opened and the countdown to the season opening drop of the puck on Wednesday October 4th is on!  It’s time to start looking at players for your NHL fantasy draft.  We start with a look at the top 12 centers!

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 1 - Connor McDavid - Edmonton Oilers

In only his second NHL season, McDavid earned the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer. McDavid’s 30 goals and 70 assists earned him the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player.  McDavid paved the way for the Oilers to make a long-awaited trip back to the playoffs. He is the envy of the league.  The sky is the limit for this 20-year-old phenom and is the no-brainer top pick of the 2017 NHL fantasy draft.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 2 - Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby is the most complete two-way player in the league.  Crosby is only the eighth player to tally 1,000 points and win three Stanley Cups before his 30th birthday. Crosby netted 44 goals last year, the second highest season total of his career. Look for Crosby to reach the 85-point mark again this season.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 3 - Auston Matthews - Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews scored 40 goals and added 29 assists last season, earning him the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. The Leafs hopes sit squarely on Matthews broad shoulders.  Look for Matthews to improve his two-way play this season and lead the Leafs to a deep playoff drive.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 4 - Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins

The other half of the Penguins’ one-two punch, Malkin is a game-changer – when he’s in the lineup. Malkin finished second in voting, behind Crosby, for the Conn Smythe Trophy which is awarded in June for most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Malkin would be a lock for 30+ goals in a season, if he could only stay healthy, but he has not played more than 69 games in a season since 2011.  Draft Malkin for what he can do for you when he does play, but don’t expect him to play more than 60 games.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 5 - Nicklas Backstrom - Washington Capitals

Backstrom is one of the most consistent NHL’ers, as he has finished in the top 20 scorers in each of the past six seasons. Backstrom has stayed relatively healthy throughout his career, missing only a handful of games.  Plan for Backstrom to score 20 goals with 60 assists over 80 games this season.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 6 - Tyler Seguin - Dallas Stars

Seguin remains one of the top players in the league, but the full 82-game season he played last year is likely more the exception than the norm. Seguin has only played more than 74 games in three of his seven seasons. Still, it shouldn’t be a reach to expect him to score 35 goals and add another 40 assists this season.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 7 - Mark Scheifele - Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele had a breakout campaign last season, with 32 goals and 50 assists, and should finish in the top 5 centers in 2017/18 if he can stay healthy. Scheifele may have more ceiling left in his production as he has produced 116 points as the Jets’ top center over 105 games since Brian Little went down with an injury in February 2016.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 8 - Jack Eichel - Buffalo Sabres

Eichel performed well down the stretch last year, without much hype. Now that he is fully recovered from ankle surgery, Eichel will perform like a first-round player, but he should be available at a bargain price in your NHL fantasy draft. 30 goals with 50 assists is a reasonable expectation.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 9 - Leon Draisaitl - Edmonton Oilers

Draisaitl made another huge jump in production in his third NHL season, with 29 goals and 48 assists.  Draisaitl solidified himself as a top ten center with a fantastic performance through the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs.  The Oilers solidified Draisaitl’s spot in the roster in the off-season, signing him to a $68 million contract over eight years.  Draisaitl performs well on his own, but he is a top-ten player overall when the Oilers pair him with McDavid. Draisaitl could improve his stats in 2017/18, 35 goals and 55 assists is not unreasonable.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 10 - John Tavares - New York Islanders

Tavares has stayed relatively healthy over his eight-year pro career.  Tavares is good for 30 goals and 40 assists in 2017/18 and will likely fall in your NHL fantasy draft making him a potential steal in the third round of your fantasy draft.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 11 - Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos is incredibly talented, but his durability has been questionable over the past couple of seasons.  Before tearing his meniscus, Stamkos was on pace for 96 points last year. Stamkos’ health Is too volatile for a NHL fantasy draft first-round pick, but he could be a huge value pick in the second round if he can stay healthy.

NHL Fantasy Draft Center 12 - Ryan Getzlaf - Anaheim Ducks

Getzlaf has been a consistent producer through the years and has proved to be very durable. Aside from the shortened 2012/13 season, the 74 games Getzlaf played in 2016/17 was the fewest since 2010.  Getzlaf should net 15 goals and add another 55 assists this season.

Fantasy Focus - Top 12 NHL Fantasy Draft Center

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