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NHL Network Top 50 player countdown Nos. 11-20

Centers take spotlight as expert panel's list nears conclusion

NHL.com @NHL

As the dog days of summer wind down, NHL Network is getting you ready for this season by ranking the Top 50 players in the League. NHL Network researchers, producers and on-air personalities compiled the list, taking into account players coming back from injury, younger players expected to break out and veteran players with a proven track record.

Check out Nos. 41-50 | Nos. 31-40 | Nos. 21-30

Here are Nos. 11-20:

20. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues

In his four seasons, Tarasenko, 24, has become one of the top scoring threats in the League. Last season, he scored 40 goals for the first time on the way to an NHL career-high 74 points. He also had the best Stanley Cup Playoff total of his career, with nine goals and six assists in 20 games for the Blues.

Tarasenko, who was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team each of the past two seasons, became the 24th player in Blues history to score 40 goals in a season and the first since 2007-08, when Brad Boyes had 43. With former captain David Backes having signed with the Boston Bruins, Tarasenko is expected to take on a larger role this season, much to the chagrin of opposing goaltenders.

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: 50-11

19. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos, 26, made his commitment to the Lightning by signing an eight-year, $68 million contract (average annual value $8.5 million) on June 29, two days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent. He had 64 points last season (36 goals, 28 assists) despite missing five regular-season games and all but one playoff game after having surgery for a blood clot near his right collarbone.

The first pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, Stamkos has been prolific when healthy; he has played four 82-game seasons in his eight-year NHL career and scored 43 or more goals in each. He scored an NHL career-high 60 goals in 2011-12, making him one of 39 players in League history to score that many in a season. He also is third on the Lightning's all-time scoring list with 562 points (312 goals, 250 assists), behind Martin St. Louis (953 points) and Vincent Lecavalier (874).

18. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin, 30, has averaged more than a point per game through his 10-season NHL career, with 760 points (295 goals, 465 assists) in 644 games. Malkin would have even higher totals if health were not a concern; he has played 75 or more games in a season four times, including 2008-09, when he had an NHL career-high 113 points (35 goals, 78 assists) and 2011-12, when he had his only 50-goal season.

Injuries limited Malkin to 57 games last season, when he had 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists), maintaining his point-per-game average. But he recovered in time to be a key member of the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup, with six goals and 12 assists in 23 playoff games.

17. Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

In three seasons as a No. 1 goalie with the Lightning, Bishop, 29, has solidified his place as one of the NHL's best at his position. He has won at least 35 games in each of those seasons and had an NHL career-best 2.06 goals-against average last season, when he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. As is the case with several other players on this list, health has been a concern; Bishop missed all of the 2014 playoffs and was limited to 11 postseason games last season.

But when Bishop is healthy in the playoffs, he has been very effective; he has a 2.09 GAA and .927 save percentage in 36 career NHL postseason games. He may get some competition for playing time this season from Andrei Vasilevskiy, but with a potent offense in front of him, Bishop is in good position to add to his total as the winningest goalie in Lightning history (115).

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Bishop kicks out left pad to make stop

16. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings

Quick, 30, has earned the reputation as a clutch postseason performer, having won the Stanley Cup twice (2012 and 2014) and the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the 2012 playoffs, when he had a 1.41 GAA and .946 save percentage. He is a two-time Vezina finalist, including last season, when he had an NHL career-high 40 wins to go with a 2.22 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Quick enters this season with 252 NHL victories, tied with Frank Brimsek for fifth place on the League's all-time wins list for U.S.-born goaltenders, behind John Vanbiesbrouck (374 wins), Tom Barrasso (369), Ryan Miller (340) and Mike Richter (301).

15. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars

The Stars clearly missed Seguin, 24, in the 2016 playoffs, when he was limited to one game because of an Achilles injury and then a calf injury. Had Seguin been healthy, Dallas might have gotten past the Western Conference Second Round, when it lost to the Blues in seven games.

Seguin is a dynamic scorer on the Stars' first line with Jamie Benn and has averaged more than a point per game in three seasons with Dallas; he has 234 points (107 goals, 127 assists) in 223 games. After he proclaimed himself healthy to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, there is no reason to think Seguin can't put up big numbers again this season.

14. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Keith, 33, the anchor of the Blackhawks defense, has been a durable player throughout his 11-season NHL career. The exception was last season, when he missed 15 games because of a knee injury. It was the first time he played fewer than 70 games in a full NHL season.

Keith's all-around play has been a hallmark for Chicago the past decade; he has had 40 or more points in seven straight full NHL seasons, and his average plus/minus over the past five seasons was plus-15.6.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Keith scores on crazy bounce

13. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings

The new Kings captain is a force at each end of the ice. Kopitar, 29, who has had 70 or more points in seven of his nine full NHL seasons, is sixth in Los Angeles history with 684 points (243 goals, 441 assists) in 764 career games. He also has excelled in the playoffs; he was the Kings' leading scorer in their 2012 and 2014 runs to the Stanley Cup.

A Selke Award finalist as the League's best defensive forward in each of the past three seasons, Kopitar won the award for the first time last season, when he tied his NHL career high with a plus-34 rating, second in the League behind teammate Tyler Toffoli (plus-35).

12. Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks

His bearded face is one of the most recognizable in hockey, but it's his skill set that makes Burns, 31, a top defenseman in the NHL. He is entering his 13th season in the League but has increased his offensive numbers significantly in his past three seasons with the Sharks, averaging 22 goals, 39 assists and 61 points. Last season, he had an NHL career-high 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) and was the second-highest scoring defenseman in the League behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (82 points).

Burns was at his best during the playoffs last season, when he led defensemen in scoring with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 24 games. His durability has made him someone the Sharks can rely on every night; he hasn't missed a game in the past two seasons.

11. John Tavares, C, New York Islanders

Tavares, 25, is an elite, all-around forward who was an NHL First Team All-Star two seasons ago when he had an NHL career-high 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) and was second in the League in scoring, one point behind Benn.

The Islanders captain scored the series-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2016 Eastern Conference First Round against the Florida Panthers, allowing New York to advance to the second round for the first time since 1993. The Islanders hope Tavares will continue his penchant for delivering in the clutch in playoff series to come; he has 22 points in 24 career NHL postseason games.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares swoops in, ties it late in 3rd 

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