When I think of the Central Division, I’m reminded of the line from the philosopher Pitbull “ooohweee, DALE! Mr. Worldwide!” which roughly translates to “A collection of excellent players including the cream of the crop of the league.” But like singles from Mr. 305, we have to make hard choices here at Central Divided and today we are looking at, in no particular order, the Top 10 Players in the Central Division right now!
A bit about my selection process, this list is heavily skewed by performance this year so that’s why you’ll see a lack of players from certain teams (Minnesota). Star power and popularity were a factor as well, and frankly just how much I like the player didn’t hurt either!
First, our honorable mentions!
- Jamie Benn -
The Stars Captain has been a model of consistency, tied for the team lead in points with another player on this list. Leading the island of misfit toys that is the Dallas roster certainly isn’t easy but the ghost of the freewheeling offense is still in there and usually pops up when he is on the ice.
- Roman Josi -
Nashville’s Newly Engaged Captain has seen an increased role since getting the C and alongside Mattias Ekholm has been a dynamic offensive pairing. His smooth skating and propensity for offense-driven heroics have likened him to “Erik Karlsson-West”. While Josi has his detractors on the defensive side of things, his skill on the front end is absolutely undeniable.
- Kyle Turris -
You’d be hard pressed to find an acquisition that had more immediate impact for his team than KT has for the Nashville Predators, performing at nearly a point per game pace since coming to Nashville, he’s also galvanized a lethal second unit with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala who have seen their point totals dramatically increase.
- Just pick a Wild player and stop yelling at me -
It’s whoever you want, I’m sorry Minnesota, I really tried to justify putting someone on this list, it was almost Ryan Suter but age has seemed to catch up to him a bit despite still logging heavy minutes. Dubnyk has been pretty inconsistent and if you think I’m going to put the corpse of Eric Staal on this list despite the year he’s having then you don’t know me at all.
- Brayden Schenn -
No longer a cast-off from the City of Brotherly Love, one word describes Brayden Schenn’s play this year, electric. He has been an absolute revelation for the Blues this year and has been a terror with Vladimir Tarasenko and a rotating third cast member.
THE TOP 10
- Filip Forsberg -
It's easy to feel spoiled watching Filip “The Human Highlight Reel” Forsberg. Some of the moves he pulls off on the ice are absolutely astounding. Whether it’s switching hands on his stick and feeding a wide open Calle Jarnkrok, dekes that look like they belong in a video game, or scoring with his stick between his legs, it’s almost as if Forsberg has a bet with his teammates to pull off an impressive move every night. Already on pace to shatter the Predators’ single season scoring record and still only 23 years old, Forsberg will terrorize the Central for years to come.
- Patrick Kane -
Earlier we talked about Pitbull, and if anyone embodies the spirit of Pitbull, it’s Patrick Kane. He’s inexplicably popular, he’s consistently shoved down our throats despite no one really wanting him there and he just makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s like the word moist took human form. However, one thing you can’t deny is his talent on ice. Patrick Kane and one other player also found on this list are the only reasons why the Blackhawks have a snowball’s chance in hell of sniffing the playoffs this year. He leads the team in points and recently scored his 300th goal in his career. That’s a whole lot of lights flashing behind him. On-ice, that is.
- Tyler Seguin -
Tyler Seguin is a dynamic goal scorer and frankly, Seguin is so good he is almost underrated despite being one of his team's leading scorers year after year. He is the dominant player on a top line with Devin Shore and Mattias Janmark, two players who, let's face it, household names they are not. Despite playing with two younger players, Seguin controls play on ice and creates chances every shift. Especially on that lethal top power-play unit. With over 70+ points in the past 3 seasons and on pace to do it again, he’s a far cry from being driven out of Beantown with torches and pitchforks, the Boston faithful surely yell “Timber” every time 91 pots another.
- Alex Pietrangelo -
So far the leading contender for this year’s Norris Trophy is hanging his hat in St. Louis. While he has been a stalwart for the Blues for several years, at 28 years old he has taken his game to another level this season. Despite his numbers lining up with his career totals, his increased role since the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk has had a noticeable impact on St. Louis’s defensive game. If the Blues captain continues this torrid pace, expect some hardware lining his trophy case this June. (A Norris, not a Stanley Cup, he still plays for the Blues)
-Vladimir Tarasenko -
One of the leagues premiere snipers, Vladimir Tarasenko has enjoyed having a running mate in Brayden Schenn this year, helping him to reach what will surely be a career season. A threat whenever he touches the ice, the Tarasenkshow is continues to be a matchup nightmare for all but the deepest defensive squads. So hopefully they can avoid Nashville this spring and Tarasenko can take center stage in the hockey world where he belongs!
- PK Subban -
The darling of hockey fans everywhere but Boston and, well, any other team he has agitated, PK Subban is enjoying his highest PPG in 5 years and this is while dragging around Alexi Emelin (who has gotten better, but is no Mattias Ekholm). Once Ryan Ellis rejoins the Predators defensive corps, look out for Subban to reunite with Ekholm and the pair that didn’t allow an even-strength goal until the Stanley Cup Final in the 2017 Playoffs will be a tag team the likes of “Demolition”.
- Corey Crawford -
Part 2 of why the Blackhawks have any shot of continuing their streak of playoff appearances, Corey Crawford has truly blossomed into an elite goaltender. For many years there was a perception that Crawford was merely the byproduct of some truly elitely built Blackhawks teams but this has been long-since shattered as Crawford turns in, yet another, stellar season. On pace for a career year, Crawford is playing behind a defensive corps that could be called, generously, more porous than cheesecloth which makes his achievements all the more impressive. Should the Hawks make the playoffs, Crawford should be able to sweep away any mistakes that defense will make and turn them into a dangerous wildcard.
- Patrik Laine -
This second year Finnish dynamo is exhilarating to watch. With a killer release and deadly accuracy, Laine is set to eclipse his insane rookie total of 36 goals and is on pace for 40. On a Winnipeg team that has had everything go right this year, it will be interesting to see this young leader take the next step and become a superstar in his own right. Laine has a ridiculous shooting percentage of 18.2% and should that keep up he will bring nightmares to the rest of the Central for years. Could use a little work in the facial hair department though, woof.
- Blake Wheeler -
Speaking of the high flying Jets, Blake Wheeler is tied for 2nd in the league in assists right now. While still in single digits in goals, he leads the Jets with 41 points. Wheeler is playing some dynamite hockey right now and if not for a loaded central, should be an All-Star this January. If the Jets have any chance of winning a game in the post-season, ever, Wheeler will be a… wait for it… key cog… in the wheel! ...I’m sorry
- Nathan MacKinnon -
Lost in the fact that Colorado is looking at another season in the basement is the quiet rise of Nathan MacKinnon. On pace to shatter his rookie point total of 63, no one has benefitted from the absence of Matt Duchene more than this former Calder Trophy winner. The most impressive thing about MacKinnon’s game is his speed and physicality. MacKinnon is truly the prototypical new modern NHL center and will be one of the most important pieces of Colorado’s Sisyphean rebuild. While this writer still believes Joe Sakic made a mistake in taking MacKinnon over Seth Jones, with the numbers that he is finally putting up any team would be lucky to have him as a number one center.
So that does it for our journey of the Top 10 Players in the Central Division ...for now. I'm fairly certain this list will change as of publishing so feel free to sound off in the comments or @ us on Twitter! Honestly, this list can go so many different ways, but that's what happens when you play in the best division in hockey!