By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — How many centers in the National Hockey League would you take on your team over Patrice Bergeron? If only for one game, one series? There shouldn’t be many on your list of centers you’d rank above him right now. According to the NHL Network, there are 10.
The network revealed its official list of the top-20 centers in the league on Sunday, and the consistently underrated Bergeron once again found himself being sold a little short as he was ranked No. 11. The list certainly appears to have valued offensive players over those with more complete games, in addition to betting on long-term success rather than the best players right now.
Bergeron is ranked just ahead of the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews at No. 12 (arguably even more ridiculous). They each rank behind the likes of the Leafs’ Auston Matthews (No. 4), the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom (No. 5), the Islanders’ John Tavares (No. 6), the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos (No. 7), the Stars’ Tyler Seguin (No. 8), and the Jets’ Mark Scheifele (No. 10).
The top-3 – Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, in that order – are perfectly fine rankings, even if Crosby may still deserve No. 1 over McDavid. But considering the rest of the names in the top-10, Bergeron should have at least gotten consideration for the top-5. He remains the best defensive center in the league and still managed to put up 50-plus points last season despite a terrible start; he put up 41 points in 43 games with a plus-12 rating once the calendar turned to 2017.
Not to mention, Bergeron has won more Stanley Cups (one) than Matthews, Backstrom, Tavares, Stamkos, and Scheifele combined (zero).
Ryan Getzlaf (No. 9) has won a Stanley Cup and is still one of the game’s best leaders and better all-around players. Tavares and Stamkos have at least proven to be consistently elite talents, and Tavares in particular has elevated himself when given the opportunity to play in the playoffs (11 points in 11 playoff games in 2016). Those three have a case against Bergeron, for sure.
But did Matthews really do that much as a rookie that he’s already proved to be a better player than the aforementioned three? Did Scheifele do the same after one season (which admittedly was a fantastic one)? And what exactly has Seguin done besides turn in a few good offensive seasons to vault himself above some players who are clearly better all-around talents right now? These are players with loads of talent that still need more time and experience to prove they’re better than the likes of Bergeron and Toews.
It’s pretty clear that the NHL Network assembled this list as if you were drafting a dynasty league team. Looking at the best centers over the course of the next decade, clearly you’d take McDavid first and Matthews would also be one of the first centers taken. At 32 years old, Bergeron’s very best days may be behind him.
But in the second half of last season, presumably after he fully recovered from his early-season injuries, Bergeron showed why he’s still one of the best all-around players in the NHL, not just one of the best centers. He’s still the perennial favorite to win the Selke Trophy, and still capable of netting 30 goals and 60-70 points to go with his elite defense.
There are better offensive centers in the game than Bergeron. There are certainly players who are much better long-term assets. But when it comes to players you’d need to win a big game right now, and give you a big-time effort across the entire 200-foot rink, there’s still few you should take ahead of Bergeron. This new list is just the latest example of how quiet his dominance can be.
1. Connor McDavid, Oilers
2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
3. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
4. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs
5. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
6. John Tavares, Islanders
7. Steven Stamkos, Lightning
8. Tyler Seguin, Stars
9. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks
10. Mark Scheifele, Jets
11. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
12. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
13. Anze Kopitar, Kings
14. Jack Eichel, Sabres
15. Leon Draisaitl, Oilers
16. Ryan Johansen, Predators
17. Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
18. Jeff Carter, Kings
19. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals
20. Sean Monahan, Flames
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.