2020 Fantasy Hockey Tiers: Centres (6-9)

Updated: September 16, 2019 at 3:29 pm by Brock Seguin

Breaking positions into tiers makes it a little easier to navigate through your fantasy draft. It ensures you are not reaching on players at certain positions, in this case; centres.

I have already ranked the top-20 into five tiers and now it’s time to take a look at Tiers 6-9.


Tier 6

  • 21. Jonathan Toews
  • 22. Mika Zibanejad
  • 23. Logan Couture
  • 24. Tomas Hertl
  • 25. Ryan O’Reilly
  • 26. Brayden Schenn

This is an important tier because if you take some wingers in the early rounds, these players will likely be your No.2 centre. All of them are capable of posting low-end No.2 fantasy numbers and some even have low-end No.1 upside.

Toews used to be overvalued on name-value alone but was a huge bargain in 2019. After failing to top 60 points in three straight seasons, Toews exploded for a career-high in goals (35) and points (81) in 82 games last year. With a lack of depth, the Blackhawks leaned heavily on Toews (21:00 ATOI) and that led to a career-best shot volume (235). After Jeremy Colliton was hired as head coach, Toews played 53.9 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with Patrick Kane, which was a massive uptick from the 7.8 percent under Joel Quenneville. Toews’ scoring spiked (68 points in 67 games) under Colliton and depending on whether or not he plays with Kane will drastically alter his fantasy value.

Zibanejad is also coming off of a career-year, scoring 30 goals with 44 assists (74 points) in 82 games. Regression was likely headed Zibanejad’s way, but the signing of Artemi Panarin will help offset any of that. No offense to Chris Kreider, but Panarin is a huge upgrade for Zibanejad and allows him to come into 2020 with 30-goal, 40-assist potential.

As expected, Couture’s goal-total dropped a bit after shooting 16.7 percent in 2018. Now it’s his assist-total that will likely come down after using an 11.0 on-ice SH% to get to 43 assists in 2019. The new Sharks’ captain will be leaned on to lead this team without Joe Pavelski and will centre the top line with Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc. In his 11th season, Couture should score 25-to-30 goals with around 35 assists—making him a solid No.2 centre.

The departure of Pavelski will likely hurt Hertl more than anyone. It drastically decreases their RW depth and leaves Hertl and Evander Kane without a reliable offensive weapon on the right-side. After a career-high 35 goals and 74 points, it seems highly unlikely that Hertl will be able to maintain a 19.9 SH% and 12.3 on-ice SH%, so regression is coming for him too. Still, like Couture, he is a 30-30 threat. 

O’Reilly and Schenn are the Blues top-2 centres and will likely get drafted a little higher than they should after winning the Stanley Cup. They both have No.2 fantasy centre upside. O’Reilly upped his shot volume last year and matched his career-high in goals (28) with a career-best 77 points. He likely won’t match last year’s totals but should still score 25 goals with 40 assists. Schenn was disappointing last year, missing 10 games and posting just 54 points. He centres the top line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz and the trio has been dominant at 5v5. They had a 56.1 CF% and 57.7 SCF% last year but were held down by a 4.26 on-ice SH%. All three should be in store for much better seasons in 2020, and Schenn should score 20-plus goals with 40-plus assists.

Tier 7

  • 27. Anze Kopitar
  • 28. Mathew Barzal
  • 29. Jack Hughes 
  • 30. Bo Horvat
  • 31. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • 32. Vincent Trocheck
  • 33. Matt Duchene
  • 34. William Karlsson
  • 35. Pierre-Luc Dubois 

As we move down the tiers, we’re getting to centres that will likely be at the bottom of your roster in standard leagues. These are your low-end No.2/high-end No.3 centres but carry good upside and could be value picks on draft day.

Unsurprisingly, Kopitar was unable to match his 92-point total from 2018. Kopitar scored 22 goals with 38 assists (60 points) in 81 games in 2019. That’s consistent with what he did before 2018 and should be able to maintain that pace in 2020. He has very little talent around him, so there’s limited upside but a stable floor.

In their first season without John Tavares, Barzal posted 62 points (18G / 44A) in 82 games—a 19-point drop-off from his rookie campaign. Barzal should finish around 70 points in 2020 but his lack of goal production limits his fantasy value to a No.2 centre.

Hughes is coming off a historic season with the USNTDP but the No.1 overall pick will likely be overvalued in fantasy circles. Given Nico Hischier’s productive history with Taylor Hall, Hughes will likely centre the second line with Nikita Gusev and Wayne Simmonds. Most recently, we saw Auston Matthews (69), Elias Pettersson (66) and Jack Eichel (59) all fail to top 70 points in their rookie seasons, so it’s safer to draft Hughes as a 20-goal, 40-assist player and hope for more.

With all of the attention on Pettersson, Horvat will fall on draft day. Horvat plays a ton (20:05 ATOI) and the Canucks offseason additions (Micheal Ferland and @J.T. Miller) will bolster their top-6 in 2020. Horvat drastically improved his shot volume last year (227) and if he continues that, he could be a 30-goal scorer for the first time in his career. His upside isn’t too high, but he’s a consistent threat for 30 goals and 30-plus assists.

With Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid becoming such a force on Edmonton’s top-line, Nugent-Hopkins has had to play with some bad wingers over the years. He was able to overcome that in 2019, posting a career-best 69 points (28G / 41A), aided by a boost in ice-time (20:06 ATOI) largely due to a lack of centre depth. Nugent-Hopkins gets a new toy this year after the Oilers acquired James Neal from the Calgary Flames but that shouldn’t boost his value too drastically. His spot on the top power-play unit is really what drives his value and keeps him in the No.3 fantasy centre conversation.

Trocheck’s owners had high hopes for him in 2019, but injury limited him to 55 games and just 34 points (10G / 24A). He returns to centre a dangerous second-line but the hiring of Joel Quenneville could result in slightly less ice-time for the entire top-6. He should get back to 25 goals and 40 assists in a full season.

While being leaned on heavily, Duchene tore it up in Ottawa but his production dropped off as the Blue Jackets’ second-line centre. Early in training camp, he is skating on a line with Mikael Granlund and Filip Forsberg, which is a big upgrade from what he was accustom to in 2019. If he can play 18:00 ATOI on Line 1A/B, that would help mitigate some of the regression heading Duchene’s way. He’s more likely to finish around 25 goals and 30-35 assists than the 31/39 from last season.

Karlsson was an obvious regression candidate in 2019 and unsurprisingly his goal total dropped from 43 to 24 and saw his point total decreased by 22. With Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Mark Stone becoming a dominant top-line last year, Karlsson is now their second-line centre (or 1B as Gerard Gallant would call it). Karlsson can score 25 goals with 30 assists with modest upside, just don’t expect 40 goals and 70 points again.

Dubois took a positive step in 2019, scoring 27 goals with 34 assists (61 points) and looks to take another step in 2020. Dubois should see another bump in ice-time as the team’s clear No.1 centre. He’ll have a proven goal-scorer in Cam Atkinson on one wing but lost Panarin on the other side. An uptick in ice-time should mitigate that loss, making him a 60-point candidate yet again.

Tier 8

  • 36. Nazem Kadri
  • 37. Max Domi
  • 38. Eric Staal
  • 39. Ryan Johansen
  • 40. Nico Hischier
  • 41. Dylan Strome

These are bottom of the roster, No.3 fantasy centres but all six of them career sleeper/breakout potential in 2020. 

The move to Colorado helps Kadri’s value a ton. He leaves Toronto where he was locked behind Tavares and Matthews on the depth chart and lands with the Avalanche where he’ll centre the second line with two of Joonas Donskoi / Andre Burakovsky / Tyson Jost. This should lead to an uptick in 5v5 ice-time and he should remain on an elite PP1 with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar. He should have no trouble getting to 25-goals, 30-assists and carries considerable upside. 

Domi blew up for 28 goals and 44 assists after struggling in his previous two seasons in Montreal. Domi shot 13.8 percent with an 11.5 on-ice SH%, so regression is likely heading his way. Still, he should be bale to score 20 goals with 35 assists and makes a solid No.3 centre. 

A year after scoring 42 goals with a 17.4 SH%, Staal saw some expected regression in 2019. Still, he managed to top 20 goals and 50 points for the third straight season and still carries some fantasy value as the Wild’s top centre. He consistently records 200-plus shots, making him a lock for 20 goals and he has 30-plus assists in 13 of the last 14 seasons. His floor is extremely stable and there’s still some upside at 34-years-old.

Johansen produces points at a No.2 centre level, the problem is they’re all assists. In the last three seasons, Johansen is tied for 25th in the NHL in assists (136) but is tied for 162nd in goals (43). He simply doesn’t score enough to be a fantasy different maker, but he is reliable and could get a boost if the Predators power-play improves at all in 2020.

Hischier is one of my top breakout favourites in 2020. The third-year centre isn’t getting any attention because of Hughes, but Hischier will play between Hall and Kyle Palmieri and should deliver No.2 centre production. He was on-pace for 20 goals and 35 assists last year and I think that’s his floor this season.

Strome will be a popular late-round choice this season because he is a former No.3 overall pick and had a torrid second-half last season. He finished with 51 points (17G / 34A) in 58 games with the Blackhawks but shot 16.2 percent and had a 13.7 on-ice SH%. Still, he should have no trouble getting back to 20 goals in a full season with Chicago and his assist total will be dependant on how many goals Alex DeBrincat scores. I would conservatively expect 30 and hope that the Blackhawks power-play and DeBrincat can vault him to 50.

Tier 9

  • 42. David Krejci
  • 43. Ryan Getzlaf
  • 44. Derek Stepan
  • 45. Paul Stastny
  • 46. Kevin Hayes
  • 47. Brock Nelson
  • 48. Nick Schmaltz
  • 49. Mikael Backlund
  • 50. Jesperi Kotkaniemi
  • 51. Colin White

Most of these centres won’t be drafted in standard leagues so I’ll be quick, but there is some upside to be found in this group.

Krejci plays consistent minutes behind Boston’s big three and has some capable wingers in Jake DeBrusk and whoever is on the right-side, potentially Charlie Coyle. He is criminally underrated in fantasy, averaging 21 goals and 43 assists (64 points) over the last four seasons.

Getzlaf’s play is starting to catch up to his hairline. At 34-years-old, Getzlaf has missed 25 percent of the games over the last two seasons and is coming off of a 48-point season, which is his worst since his rookie year. Sam Steel will likely continue to eat into Getzlaf’s ice-time and his lack of goal production limits his fantasy appeal.

Stepan, like Krejci, never got any respect in fantasy circles and certainly won’t after a 35-point season. He has a 7.1 on-ice SH% to thank for that and this summer the Coyotes front office went out and got Phil Kessel for him. A healthy season should result in 20 goals and 35 assists for the 29-year-old pivot.

Playing in-between Pacioretty and Stone for a full season gives Stastny a lot of fantasy upside but he missed 32 games in 2019, 16 games in 2017 and 18 games in 2016, so durability is the primary concern here. He’s worth a late-round pick because he should thrive atop the Golden Knights lineup on a line that was nothing short of spectacular in a small sample size.

Hayes cashed in this offseason after setting a career-high in points (55) in 2019. Now in Philadelphia, Hayes will be on a formidable second-line with James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek which makes him a 50-point candidate for the second year in a row. With that said, Hayes doesn’t shoot enough and likely won’t see PP1 time, which limits his overall value.

Things went about as well as they could have for Nelson in 2019. While some regression is expected, he’s playing huge minutes with Tavares gone and the ice-time will lead to modest production.

Schmaltz got off to a hot-start in Arizona before an injury ended his season. The addition of Kessel means that he’ll be back on a line with Clayton Keller and that should be enough to make Schmaltz a fringe roster player in 2020.

Backlund centres a Flames’ second-line that dominates puck possession but it hasn’t resulted in overly impressive numbers for Backlund. He’s durable, missing just six games in the last four years but has averaged just 20 goals and 29 assists over that span, making him a waiver-wire streaming option.

Kotkaniemi would be ranked a lot higher if you could guarantee that he would play in the top-6. However, it looks like he’s going to start the year on the third line and will need to work his way up the roster. Given his centre-only eligibility, it’s going to be tough to take a flier on him and wait for him to potentially replace Philip Danault on the top-line. Keep an eye on their line configurations though, because he’s worth an immediate pick-up when he does get promoted.

White is in the exact opposite spot as Kotkaniemi. He is the unquestioned No.1 centre in Ottawa but doesn’t have the same high-end skill level. Still, we saw what Duchene was able to do in the same spot last year and Brady Tkachuk seems poised to take a step forward in year-2, so there’s a 45-point floor with 60-plus point upside in White. He’s a lottery ticket but it might cash-in with a disastrous plus/minus.

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Brock Seguin

Brock has been the Editor-In-Chief of DailyFaceoff.com since the start of the 2012-13 season, the Host of the DFO Podcast since 2015 and Editor-In-Chief of DailyDugout since the 2017 season.

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