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Center Stage: The Giroux-Benn-Seguin takeover

Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 2:13 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy centers in our weekly segment: "Center Stage." From updated center rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy center expert all season long.

The center position is almost always the most talented and deepest position in fantasy hockey. Maybe it's because they have a great shot or are good at face-offs, but in most cases, it's because they have the best vision on the ice and play solid two-way hockey. The center is counted on to create in the offensive zone and help out their defensemen in the defensive zone.

However, the latter doesn't mean much to us fantasy owners. We only care about what they do on offense.

While the center position clearly has great depth this season, it has surprisingly lacked in elite talent through the first six-plus weeks of action. Of the forward positions, only three players represent the centers among the top-10 rated players in Yahoo! Leagues -- and all three of them actually have dual-position eligibility.

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 22
SOG: 52 | +/-: 3
Claude Giroux is currently the sixth-rated player (C and RW), Tyler Seguin is eighth (C and RW) and Jamie Benn is 10th (C and LW). Not exactly the group of players you were probably expecting from the center position. Some of our usual suspects -- Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, etc... -- will probably work their way into the top-10 at some point this season, but let's not mistake these tremendous starts from Grioux, Seguin and Benn as misleading. These three players are legit fantasy studs and should be trusted in all leagues. They are extremely talented and have as good vision as anyone, and because they're so young, you can expect them to continue to develop as players.

Giroux, 23, has increased his points total in each season since joining the League in 2007, with 76 being his high last season -- expect him to continue to build this year (he's on pace for 106 points).

Seguin, 19, has been a major fantasy contributor in every category except penalty minutes (8) and a season of 80-plus points wouldn't shock us at this point -- he's that talented.

Benn, 22, was a stud in the minors before translating that into dominant numbers this season and proving to be Dallas' most threatening offensive player. He's on pace for 91 points and will likely finish with 30-plus goals.

The start of a new, young and talented group of players may be the trend for fantasy this season, and you should just ride the wave if you're lucky enough to have any of these playmaking centers.

TRENDING UPWARD

TOP 40 FANTASY CENTERS

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: Positions are dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: David Krejci, Mike Ribeiro, T.J. Oshie, Vinny Prospal

Players on IR: Sidney Crosby, Andy McDonald
Jonathan Toews -- Welcome back to the top-10. After a relatively quiet start to November (two points in his first four Nov. games), Toews has erupted for four goals and two helpers in his previous three games. He's also been a plus-six during that span and has fired 11 shots on goal (including seven against the Oilers). Recently the Hawks have switched up their top two lines, with Toews centering Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg -- and so far so good. Toews is still averaging nearly four minutes of power play ice time per game and should be in line to post similar numbers to his 76-point campaign from last season.

Brad Marchand -- There might not be a hotter player in the NHL than the dual-eligible Bruins forward. Marchand has notched four goals and five assists during a current six-game point-scoring streak that began Nov. 1. During that time, he has been a plus-rating in every game, has recorded six PIMs (35 on the season) and is averaging three shots on goal per game. Last season's playoff hero is skating on a line with Patrice Bergon and Tyler Seguin (all three could play center) and their recent chemistry should be enough to keep this line together all season long.

Derek Roy -- Roy has bounced around with a few line combinations for the Sabres, but for the most part he's been skating between Drew Stafford and Ville Leino. Roy got off to a slow start with just one goal and three assists in his first 11 games, but since then he has posted five goals and five assists in his past six. Roy has the potential to put up point-per-game numbers -- he had 35 in 35 games before getting hurt last year and even recorded 81 points in 78 contests back in 2007-08 -- and should be owned in more than the 75 percent of Yahoo! Leagues he's currently owned in. He's a solid source of production in all categories, but will especially help you in assists going forward -- he's averaged 0.51 assists per game over his career.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Jason Spezza -- With Ottawa's top line of Spezza, Milan Michalek and Colin Greening being their main source of offense, opposing teams are definitely starting to pay a bit more attention to them. Spezza is the best of the bunch and while he got off to a terrific start, he has been shut down recently with no goals in his last eight games and only two assists during that time. Spezza will likely snap out of this funk and should continue to post point-per-game caliber stats as long as he remains healthy, but while he's in this cold streak, you might want to keep him on your bench.

Jeff Carter -- While Carter is officially back for Columbus, he doesn't jump to high in the rankings until he proves his value. Carter had a very good season with the Flyers last year before being dealt to the Jackets in the off season, so expectations are high. However, he recorded just three assists in his first five games before going down with a broken foot. He returned to the lineup on Saturday and has been held pointless in his two games since then. He was also a minus-three -- a trend that could happen quite frequently in Columbus. Carter should start to score some goals and he'll always get you shots, but for now we have to be patient with him.

Mike Ribeiro -- It seems safe to say that we shouldn't expect Ribeiro to score more than 20 goals in any season. He has very creative and tricky hands, but he puts that talent towards his playmaking more than anything -- as demonstrated by his one goal and 10 assists in 17 games this season. Ribeiro also doesn't love to shoot the puck, and while he's skating on a line with Brenden Morrow, they just aren't getting a ton of chances for the Stars. With one point in his last four games, you're best off looking for production elsewhere for the time being.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Valtteri Filppula -- We've been hearing about Filppula's potential for a few years now, and perhaps he's finally ready to deliver on all that talent he possesses. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg are struggling for the Wings, Filppula has been putting up points at a near point-per-game pace (13 in 16 games to go along with an outstanding plus-10 rating) -- however, his points come in bunches. Filppula has four multi-point games, but has been held pointless in nine of 16 contests. The Finish-native is owned in 30 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and while he's a risky play, if you catch him at the right time, he could produce like a No. 1 center for your team.

TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Alex Ovechkin
5. Evgeni Malkin

CUBETA'S COMPLETE TOP 100 FORWARD RANKS