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NHL’s Best: Ranking the Current Top 20 Centers in 2020/21

Are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl the top two centers in the NHL?

It has arrived. That is, the current top 20 centers in the NHL according to experts at the NHL Network list which was released yesterday. And, of course, I’m going to take a look at it, dissect it and give my two cents.

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Of course, this #NHLTopPlayers feature is a good way to engage fans by collecting votes for the top players at each position. As seen in the tweet below however, there are some marked differences between the fans top 20 list in comparison to the NHL Networks:

Notable Differences

Leon Draisatil Gets No Love From Fans

Since this is the third time sorting through the NHL Top Players my first inclination is too look for any outliers between the two lists. As a fellow fan of the NHL it is hard for me to call out the fanbase but the first distinctive difference between the two lists revolves around current NHL triple crown trophy winner, Leon Draisaitl.

Based on his 2020 season one could argue that Draisaitl could even be placed higher than the #3 spot on any Top 20 list. However, having him in the 12th position on the fan list seems more than a bit unjust. Perhaps the NHL fan base did not want to have two Edmonton Oilers centers within the top three, but unfortunately that is the current reality as he and Connor McDavid are that good.

Leon Draisaitl wins NHL Hart Trophy

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Kuznetsov Left Out By NHL Network, Malkin By Fans

The second unique difference between the Top 20 lists revolves around two different Gino’s: Evegny Kuznetsov and Evgeni Malkin.

More specifically, Kuznetsov appears in the last position on the fan list but does not make the cut for the Network top 20. Conversely, Malkin was not included by the fans but is eighth best center in the league according to the NHL Network. That might be a bit high for the 34-year-old, long time Penguin but he still belongs in the top 20.

In other words, both players should fall somewhere in the middle of these two lists.

Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Kevin Hayes Ranked High By Fans

Lastly, another notable gap in the two top 20 lists is Philadelphia Flyers middleman, Kevin Hayes. The big rig from Boston has enjoyed a level of consistency in his young career but only once has he surpassed the 50-point mark. While he still has time on his side, at 28, my guess is he would only ever be in the latter half of the top 20 centers in the NHL.

However, the fan list had Hayes as the 6th best center! The Network seemed to have agreed with me as he was not on there list at all.

These NHL Lists Aren’t An Exact Science

What factors contribute to the discrepancies within the Top 20 Center list? Probably a number of them but there seems to be a few that stand out as obvious.

For one, there could likely be more ‘voters’ from the United States or certain markets where there is limited exposure or a great fan base. This has to have affect the fan list. For another, the NHL Network’s list should be more accurate since one would expect it to be less biased. Whenever you have a “fan list” you should expect your results to include players the fans like. The NHL Network has access to much more information and legitimate experts. This clearly shows.

Finally, the most plausible explanation: the NHL is chalk full of talented players at the center position and there’s simply a ton of room for varied responses, none of which are terrible choices.

Which NHL centers would be in your top 20?

NEXT: NHL’s Best Wing Men – Big Differences in Top 20 Lists

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