With the 2013-14 NHL season inching closer by the day, NHL.com has you covered with positional fantasy rankings. Based on projected lineups, potential Yahoo! position eligibility, past performance, injury history and each insider's opinions, Matt Cubeta (centers), Matt Sitkoff (left wings), Pete Jensen (right wings), Brian Metzer (defensemen) and Justin Goldman (goalies) bring you up to speed by identifying all the players worth targeting at each position in your upcoming drafts.
Every year, every draft, everyone knows it: Center is the deepest position in fantasy hockey. It's not a debate. It has become a fact. Fittingly, this year is no different.
Within NHL.com's consensus top 200 overall rankings, 47 centers made the cut, with 17 in the top 50 and 28 among the top 100 players. Nearly 25 percent of the players in our overall rankings were centers. What's most notable are the 17 centers within the top 50 ranks, proving there is great strength at the position among the top-tier players. Comparatively, only 11 left wings, eight right wings, five defensemen and nine goalies made the top 50.
What does all this mean for you come draft day?
It means that if you miss out on grabbing one of the elite centers early on (first or second round), you'll still be able to draft a No.1-caliber center for your roster in rounds three through five because of this immense amount of depth.
At the top of the ranks, you'll notice plenty of regulars, with Sidney Crosby holding down the No. 1 spot ahead of Steven Stamkos. While our consensus ranks saw Evgeni Malkin come in as the third-ranked center, I see things shaking out differently in 2013-14.
I believe Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will outperform the dynamic Penguins center. Coming off an injury plagued season that saw him score just nine goals in 31 games and finishing as the 54th-ranked fantasy player in Yahoo! leagues, Malkin has to stay below Toews and Tavares (9th and 19th in Yahoo! respectively) to start the season.
Claude Giroux normally would find himself among the top five centers, but due to his injury (surgery on his finger), he'll miss a lot, if not all, of Flyers training camp. While he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season, he'll be coming in cold, and that slightly decreases his value going into the season. That said, he's still worthy of a draft pick before the second round ends.
As for the depth, it's everywhere among the top 40 centers. Derek Stepan (who ranked 30th overall in Yahoo! last year) is 19th at the center position; Nazem Kadri (who ranked 41st) finds himself 25th; David Krejci (who led the NHL in playoff points) is ranked 30th. There are also plenty of sleepers to be found late in drafts. Centers like Derick Brassard, Brandon Dubinsky, Steve Ott, Mikhail Grabovski and Brandon Pirri could all end up exceeding expectations this season.
From the elite to the depth players, there's a very good chance your fantasy roster will be built around your centers.
FANTASY FACEOFF -- CENTER: Sidney Crosby vs. Steven Stamkos
RANKINGS: Top 200 Overall | Left Wing | Right Wing | Defense | Goalies | Top 50 Analysis
2013-14 FANTASY SLEEPERS: Cubeta | Jensen | Sitkoff
NOTE: Positional rankings do not necessarily reflect the order of NHL.com's top 200 overall rankings, which are compiled based on the individual rankings of the four NHL.com insiders whose opinions were taken into account.
Just missed: Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Ennis, Brandon Pirri, David Desharnais, Travis Zajac, Paul Stastny, Tyler Bozak, Derek Roy, Bryan Little, Mikael Granlund