Updated: Dec 31, 2020
We're here! The 2021 NHL season, shortened as it may be, is just around the corner. So what better time to release our 2021 fantasy hockey rankings? It is a unique year in fantasy hockey, as the same seven or eight teams will play each other all season. This surely will vault some players in "easier" divisions to becoming your team's fantasy hockey heroes.
There's a lot to get reacquainted with, so let's get right into it.
We'll begin with the centers. Here are our top 50 centers, using Yahoo's default fantasy scoring system (goal: 6 points, assist: 4, plus-minus: 2, pp points: 2, sog: 0.9, blocked shots: 1).
1. Auston Matthews, TOR
There is a clear big three at the top of this list, and while most sights favor Nathan MacKinnon or Connor McDavid, Matthews is actually your top value here. He not only plays with some of the top offensive talent in the entire NHL, but also is on a Toronto team that is expected to roll the North division this season.
2. Nathan MacKinnon, COL
A consensus number one on most fantasy sites, you cannot go wrong with Nathan MacKinnon as your top pick. Colorado projects to be a top contender again this season, and the addition of Brandon Saad to the team likely means MacKinnon's preferred linemates, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, will stick by his side for the majority of the year.
3. Connor McDavid, EDM
When in doubt, go with the NHL's best talent. And, undoubtedly, that person is Connor McDavid. Although he doesn't have the elite linemates as the two above him on this list, McDavid can more with less perhaps better than anyone in the league. Again, schedule effects will weigh into things as well, and, although his team doesn't project high in our rankings, McDavid should feast on the weaker North division.
4. Mika Zibanejad, NYR
Zibanejad might not be one of the big names you were expecting at fourth on this list, but if you have owned him in your league in the past couple of seasons, you can understand why he deserves to be here. Last season, Zibanejad was as hot as they come on the ice when healthy, and this season he projects to have first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere on his left wing to help vault offensive production. Zibanejad is an all-situations player as well, so he will likely garner the most ice time among New York Rangers forwards.
5. Patrice Bergeron, BOS
Another year, another top ten spot for Patrice Bergeron in fantasy rankings. Another all-situations player, he will be the constant steady producing force you need atop your fantasy lineup. Age doesn't project to be a major detractor this season, but there is some worry on the health status of his usual linemates - Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak - heading into the season. Regardless, Boston has a deep forward group with plenty of sufficient options to be placeholders on the top line until their star wingers are ready to go.
6. Sidney Crosby, PIT
Despite notoriously not getting much help in terms of linemate quality, Crosby still produces at a top ten fantasy level. While he is the lead man on a club bordering the top half of perhaps the league's toughest division, Crosby does have a talented offensive group around him this season to at least boost his output slightly. The Penguins' depth was tested heavily last season with injuries, but if they can stay relatively healthy this season Crosby should be the driving force we have been accustomed to seeing.
7. Leon Draisaitl, EDM
Coming off an MVP season, it's hard to see Draisaitl slowing down any. It's tough to rank him over the six players ahead of him on this list purely based off the fact that he's second fiddle still to McDavid, however, watch out if he gets significant looks again on McDavid's wing. Which it is also important to note that if he has wing eligibility in your league, he instantly becomes a more valuable pick than at least Zibanejad, Bergeron, and Crosby due to the position flexibility - despite projecting for less fantasy points overall.
8. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
Another "second line center", Malkin is expected to bounce back to form this season on a talented Pittsburgh team. Malkin is a force at both even-strength and on the powerplay, and will likely see a lot of Jason Zucker and a resurgent Bryan Rust on his wing this season. He is coming off of an elbow injury, but should be good to go without showing any ill-effects.
9. John Tavares, TOR
It's easy to overlook Tavares on a flashy Maple Leafs squad, but he is as consistent of a producer as you will find over the last 10 years. Again, the Leafs are expected to dominate the North division this season, and Tavares will be one of the key reasons why.
10. Jack Eichel, BUF
Coming off a career year, Eichel's production has been on a steady incline since he entered the league. This season he has a new running mate - former league MVP Taylor Hall - to tear up the offensive zone with this season. The entire top ten at center can certainly go in any order in your fantasy draft, so when drafting just consider the hit the Buffalo Sabres will face when playing some of the league's top teams in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington for half of the season. On top of that, the New York Islanders are also in their division, and historically haven't given up many goals since Barry Trotz took over behind the bench. Still, Eichel is an elite talent on an upward trajectory.