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Malkin edges Stamkos, Crosby for No. 1 center rank

by Matt Cubeta's fantasy hockey staff of Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen, Sergei Feldman, Justin Goldman, Brian Metzer and Chris Foster has you covered all season long with essential fantasy hockey knowledge, rankings and advice to get you ready for your fantasy leagues.

    Like it has been in the past, there's not a doubt in the world that the center position is again the deepest in fantasy hockey. It's debatable that anyone among our top-12 centers could end up being a first-round selection in any given draft. If you elect to draft your centers later, you shouldn't worry as there are infinite options throughout and some definite hidden gems for late-round picks.

    It's not often we see two teammates rank inside the top-three, but that's what we have this year, thanks to the tremendous talents of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. An argument could be made for either of the Penguins teammates, or Steven Stamkos to be the No. 1 center, but Malkin gets the nod after a season for the ages (50 goals, 109 points, plus-18, 70 PIMs, 34 PPP and 339 SOG). Stamkos has the ability to lead in goals every year (he had 10 more than Malkin last season), but Malkin's well-roundedness gives him the edge. Crosby could end up being the most valuable fantasy player of anyone, but because of his injury risk, we safely placed him in the three-hole -- if Crosby does stay healthy for the full season, there's a good chance he finishes as the top fantasy player.

    You may be asking yourself why John Tavares is ranked ahead of proven veterans like Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Backstrom, but Tavares has the potential to finish as a top-five fantasy center. He finished last year as the 18th-ranked overall player in Yahoo! Leagues and continues to improve every season. Some other potentially surprising high rankings include Jamie Benn, Mikko Koivu and Matt Duchene, but these are players that could record career-seasons and become fantasy stars.

    If you struggle to grab a true No. 1 fantasy center for your team, there are plenty of solid options later in the ranks. Cody Hodgson, Derek Stepan and James van Riemsdyk have all become known names and could be in for big seasons, while potential sleepers Roman Cervenka, Kyle Turris and Brayden Schenn could provide surprising value for owners.

    Whether you take a center with your first selection or you snag one in the later rounds of your draft, there is as much talent as ever at the position, so enjoy the ride and watch as they carry your team to a title.

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