John Tavares, C, TOR (NHL.com overall rank: 9; Yahoo average draft position: 9.9) -- Signing a seven-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs lifts Tavares back into the top five fantasy center rankings. He's slated to play on a line with right wing Mitchell Marner, a player more talented than any of his New York Islanders linemates over the years, and left wing Zach Hyman. Tavares is also likely to play with fellow elite center Auston Matthews on the power play and should reach 90 points for the first time in his career, making him worth targeting in the first round of most fantasy drafts.
Video: How will Toronto handle all their talented centers?
Ryan O'Reilly, C, STL (NHL.com: 129; ADP: 153.3) -- A spot next to goal-scoring right wing Vladimir Tarasenko would give O'Reilly great fantasy value relative to his average draft position given his consistency in points (at least 55 points in each of past five seasons) and power-play points (at least 22 in four of past five). He should no longer be a plus/minus liability (minus-23 last season with the Buffalo Sabres; minus-16 in 2015-16) by joining a Stanley Cup Playoff contender in the St. Louis Blues and brings added value in leagues that count face-off wins (1,274 last season; led NHL).
Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, ARI (NHL.com: 150; ADP: 166.0) -- After lineup inconsistency and injuries plagued his tenure with the Montreal Canadiens, Galchenyuk gets a fresh start with the Arizona Coyotes and could have his best season yet if he plays on the top line with wing Clayton Keller. The Coyotes have more roster stability than previous seasons and are an overlooked team with fantasy upside. Galchenyuk (NHL career-high 24 PPP last season) should boost Arizona's first power-play unit and improve at 5-on-5 if he earns a full-time center role. It's worth noting Galchenyuk is dealing with a lower-body injury this preseason.
Sean Monahan, C, CGY (NHL.com rank: 60; ADP: 95.2) -- The Calgary Flames center is healthy after having four surgeries this offseason and could expand on his previous production with elite left wing Johnny Gaudreau under new coach Bill Peters. The Flames have plenty of options at right wing in offseason additions James Neal and Elias Lindholm, as well as Matthew Tkachuk (if he switches positions). Monahan had a 30-30 season (31 goals, 33 assists) despite playing through injuries (he was shut down in March) last season and surprisingly is attainable outside the top 75 on average.
Video: CGY@BUF: Monahan drills home Gaudreau's nice dish
Brayden Point, C, TBL (NHL.com rank: 90; ADP: 129.5) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning center lost right wing eligibility in Yahoo's position update but is going way too low after a breakout season of 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) on the second line and second power-play unit. Point took a huge step forward compared to his rookie season (40 points in 68 games) when he played on Nikita Kucherov's line. After an impressive playoffs (16 points in 17 games), the 22-year-old comes with little risk and a high ceiling for one of the safest fantasy teams.
Jeff Carter, C, LAK (NHL.com rank: 109; ADP: 140.4) -- He missed most of last season because of an ankle laceration, but together with the addition of veteran wing Ilya Kovalchuk, should help make the Los Angeles Kings offense much more potent. Carter was fantasy-relevant when healthy last season (22 points in 27 games) and previously had three straight seasons of at least 62 points and 218 shots on goal. Whether Carter plays with usual linemates Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, or gets Kovalchuk on his line, he has glaring bounce-back potential in fantasy.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/LW, CBJ (NHL.com: 119; ADP: 148.2) -- Don't let the contract status of left wing Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (potential 2019 unrestricted free agents) distract you from Dubois' upside as the Columbus Blue Jackets' No. 1 center. Dubois thrived with Panarin and right wing Cam Atkinson down the stretch of his rookie season (11 points in final eight regular-season games; four points in six playoff games) and has added value after hits became a standard category (127 last season; 1.5 per game).
Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (NHL.com: 130; ADP: 169.1) -- The New York Rangers center has had promising stretches prior to injuries in each of the past two seasons and will be relied upon for offense during their ongoing rebuild. If new coach David Quinn uses young right wing Pavel Buchnevich with Zibanejad and left wing Chris Kreider more often in all situations, each should finish with at least 50 points (Zibanejad's career high: 51 with Ottawa Senators in 2015-16). If defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk stays healthy, the Rangers could have an even better power play than last season, when they were tied for 12th in the NHL at 21.2 percent.
Video: CBJ@NYR: Zibanejad scores PPG in 400th NHL game
Jack Roslovic, C, WPG (NHL.com: 192; ADP: N/A) -- After veteran Paul Stastny signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in free agency, Roslovic should get a chance to center the Winnipeg Jets' second line with high-scoring wings Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. The 21-year-old is going undrafted in Yahoo and is a deep sleeper worth targeting in the final round of a standard draft. He could also play on an underrated second power play with Ehlers and defenseman Tyler Myers (potential 2019 UFA).
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Elias Pettersson, C, VAN (NHL.com: 191; ADP: 172.5) -- Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat found chemistry with rookie right wing Brock Boeser and left wing Sven Baertschi last season prior to injury, but Pettersson is a threat to be the top-line center as early as this season and also see time on the first power play right from the start. Pettersson was better than a point per game (56 points in 44 games) for Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League last season and is projected by NHL.com's fantasy staff to be the highest-scoring rookie this season.
Casey Mittelstadt, C, BUF (NHL.com: 193; ADP: 156.9) -- The O'Reilly trade gives Mittelstadt a chance to be the Buffalo Sabres' No. 2 center behind Jack Eichel. Buffalo had one of the busiest offseasons, most notably selecting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, acquiring goal-scoring left wing Jeff Skinner and signing goalie Carter Hutton. Mittelstadt performed well in his NHL stint late last season (five points in six games) and is a sneaky rookie worth targeting in fantasy with potential exposure to right wing Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo or Jason Pominville. Mittelstadt is coming off an impressive freshman season for University of Minnesota (30 points in 34 games) and has a realistic chance at 45-50 points.
Video: BUF@TBL: Mittelstadt nets PPG for first career tally
TOP 50 CENTER RANKINGS
Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, PPP, SOG and now hits for skaters. ... Value has been quantified based on factors including past production, projected line combinations, power-play usage, injury history, sleeper upside, anticipated regression or bounce-back candidacy, age and contract status (current restricted free agents are listed with RFA). Any potential 2019 UFAs (*) and RFAs (**) are also noted below. ... INJ. indicates players with injury concerns. ... Forward positions indicate Yahoo eligibility for 2018-19 season (subject to additions but never subtractions at Yahoo's discretion). Center is the primary position of any dual-eligible forwards on this list.
1. Connor McDavid, C, EDM
2. Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
3. Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
4. Auston Matthews, C, TOR**
5. John Tavares, C, TOR
6. Steven Stamkos, C, TBL
7. Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
8. Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
9. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH
10. Anze Kopitar, C, LAK
11. Mark Scheifele, C, WPG
12. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS - INJ.
13. Jack Eichel, C, BUF
14. Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA
15. William Karlsson, C/LW, VGK**
16. Leon Draisaitl, C/RW, EDM
17. Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
18. Sean Monahan, C, CGY
19. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI
20. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH
21. Sebastian Aho, C/LW, CAR**
22. Brayden Schenn, C, STL
23. Vincent Trocheck, C, FLA
24. Logan Couture, C/LW, SJS
25. Brayden Point, C, TBL**
26. Sean Couturier, C, PHI - INJ.
27. Ryan Johansen, C, NSH
28. Jeff Carter, C, LAK
29. Eric Staal, C, MIN*
30. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/LW, CBJ
31. Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
32. Ryan O'Reilly, C, STL
33. Dylan Larkin, C, DET
34. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR
35. Nico Hischier, C, NJD
36. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, ARI - INJ.
37. Matt Duchene, C, OTT*
38. Elias Pettersson, C, VAN
39. Jack Roslovic, C, WPG
40. Casey Mittelstadt, C, BUF
41. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
42. Nolan Patrick, C, PHI
43. Joe Thornton, C, SJS*
44. Nick Schmaltz, C/LW, CHI**
45. Derek Stepan, C, ARI
46. Bo Horvat, C, VAN
47. Derick Brassard, C, PIT*
48. David Krejci, C, BOS
49. Kyle Turris, C, NSH
50. Paul Stastny, C, VGK
Just missed: Mikko Koivu, C, MIN; Tyson Jost, C/LW, COL; Martin Necas, C, CAR; Adam Henrique, C, ANA; Jason Spezza, C, DAL*
NOTES: Aho played center down the stretch last season with wings Teuvo Teravainen and Valentin Zykov and gained the position in Yahoo's recent update. Galchenyuk is expected to play center but was mostly a left wing last season with the Canadiens. Schmaltz played multiple forward positions last season but could center Patrick Kane's line more often this season.
Key injury: Ryan Kesler (C, ANA)