Ranking the top players by position in the Central and Pacific division

The NHL boasts incredible talent from around the globe. From Russia’s Artemi Panarin to Canada’s Connor McDavid, they are all part of the greatest league on ice.

As the new season approaches, here are the top players by position for the Central and Pacific Divisions.

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NHL: Central Division Stars

  • Center: Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche
  • Winger 1: Patrick Kane, Blackhawks
  • Winger 2: Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche
  • Defense 1: Cale Makar, Avalanche
  • Defense 2: Roman Josi, Predators
  • Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck, Jets

He may not like pasta with white sauce (carbonara) on it, but Nathan MacKinnon is the clear choice for the Central’s top pivot. The 26 year-old scored 65 points in 48 games and is the engine that drives the Avs’ offense.

On the wings, Patrick Kane and Mikko Rantanen take the top spots over some great players. At 32 years of age, Kane still has the wheels after scoring 66 points in 56 contests last season. He’s neck and neck with another member of the Avs in Rantanen. The 24 year-old scored 66 points with 30 goals to his name in 52 games for Colorado.

nathan mackinnon pasta
Apr 2, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates with the bench after his second goal of the game against the St. Louis Blues at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Another member of the Avs takes the top defenseman spot in Cale Makar. He is also perennial Norris Trophy candidate and should only improve on both sides of the puck. The 22 year-old notched 44 points in 44 games in 2021-22. As for D2, I went with one of the best two-way defensemen in the game with the Predators Roman Josi.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck is as good as it gets. I gave some thought to defending Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury since he was traded to Chicago this summer, but stayed with Hellebuyck. A former Vezina winner himself in 2019-20, the 28 year-old has a habit of making the Jets defense look better than it is some games.

NHL: Pacific Division Stars

  • Center: Connor McDavid, Oilers
  • Winger 1: Max Pacioretty, Golden Knights
  • Winger 2: Mark Stone, Golden Knights
  • Defense 1: Quinn Hughes, Canucks
  • Defense 2: Shea Theodore, Golden Knights
  • Goalie: Robin Lehner, Golden Knights

In the Pacific, Connor McDavid is the best center by a landslide. To be fair, he’s the NHL’s best player so this was probably the easiest selection I had to make. McDavid secured his third Art Ross Trophy after leading the league with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in just 56 games — 21 more points than his nearest competitor, Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid 100 points
May 6, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) look for a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

You are about to notice a trend, but it should come as no surprise. The rest of this list will have a lot of Golden Knights players as we have them head and shoulders above the rest of the division.

On the wings, both Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone take it. You have to remember, Vegas does not have an elite center, so Stone netting 61 points in 55 games is impressive. Same for Pacioretty who scored 51 points in 48 contests.

The young Quinn Hughes takes the top spot for me on defense. Playing for the Vancouver Canucks last season wasn’t easy but the 21 year-old picked up 41 points in 56 games. He’s followed by yet another member of the Golden Knights in Shea Theodore. The big defender in 53 contests racked up 42 points.

Selecting the best goalie in the Pacific was the hardest of all my selections. There’s some good ones on bad teams like John Gibson in Anaheim. Then you have up and coming net minders like Cal Petersen in LA and Thatcher Demko in Vancouver.

In the end, I landed with the goalie on the best team. Robin Lehner struggled a little in the playoffs but had a great regular season. He picked up a 13-4-2 record on the strength of a .913 SV% and 2.29 GAA. He’s now the #1, and his stats should be even better.