McDavid, then who? Players, coaches, execs vote for NHL’s top centers
Right now in the NHL, ranking the best centers is like predicting the winner of the Olympic 100m final when Usain Bolt was in his prime: everyone else is just vying for second place at best.
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid took first place in Sportzshala’s 2023 positional rankings for centers, which was compiled from 20 polls that feature players on and off the ice. He also topped our list in 2021.
This is not a spoiler. This is reality. Other centers may be “in the conversation” about the best in the NHL, but McDavid is the standard they’re trying to achieve.
“It’s hard to imagine how fast he is,” said the Western Conference team principal. “It’s amazing to watch. It’s also impossible to defend.”
Here’s how the ranking worked: Polls were taken over the last two months. Respondents were asked to rank their current top 10 players in center, forward, defenseman and goaltender based on a pre-compiled list of the top 25-35 players in each position. Players ranked in the top ten on each ballot received a numerical score: #1 earned 10 points, #2 earned 9 points, and so on.
10 NHL players were interviewed – six from the Eastern Conference, four from the Western Conference. They range from NHL award nominees to seasoned role players. To balance this view, we interviewed 10 people from NHL hockey operations teams, including three coaches and three general managers.
Collectively, their findings have led to rankings that go beyond fan and media speculation to bring out the best of the best—at least according to those who work in the NHL.
Here are the top 10 centers according to our polls, with an additional report from yours truly, Kristen Shilton and Ryan S. Clarke, to add context to the selection. Statistics are collected from sites such as Trick with natural characteristics, Ice Hockey Directory And Evolving hockey.