In this short article, I will discuss the top centerman with regards to two way play. Modern day NHL is much more focused on a two way game, rather than just offensive statistics. Advanced statistics have shown us the importance of players who can contribute at both ends of the ice. These stats are especially important for centerman, as they have so much responsibility in all three zones. Possessing the ability to shut down the opposition while still producing offensively is a rare talent. In this section I will be outlining the top 5 two-way centerman entering the 2015-16 season.
5. Ryan Kesler: ( GP 81 / 47 PTS / 79 PIM / 169 HIT / .563 FO% / 3 SHP )
Ryan Kesler is one of the best second line centerman in the entire league. He is a big, fast guy who can out compete most players he matches up against. Kesler's offensive output has a lot to do with his ability to get shots off. In an 82 game season, Kesler will put up 200+ shots more often than not. He has the ability to work for open ice away from the puck, as well as use his size and strength to drive the net and create offense. Defensively, Kesler is equally hard to play against. His size, strength and hockey IQ allow him to shutdown elite level talent on a nightly basis. All of these skills, combined with his ability to win draws have him ranked in my top 5.
4. David Backes: ( GP: 80 / PTS 58 / BLK 87 / .546 FO% / 227 HITS / 104 PIM)
David Backes makes this list mostly due to his dominant physical play. He is a massive 6-3, 221 pound center who can play against literally anybody. He is a nightmare for the opposition as he is so dangerous in both ends. He is an explosive hitter who can really wear down opponents. In his last five seasons, Backes averaged over 200 hits and 100 PIMS; a feat that is unheard of for first line centerman. He also managed to put up 87 blocks, while also improving his face off percentage from the previous year. This once criticized area of his game is no longer an issue as he won .546% of his draws last season. Given his commitment to the defensive end, it is astonishing that Backes can consistently put up 50+ points per season.
3. Anze Kopitar: ( 79 GP / 66 PTS / 10 PIMS / .526 FO% )
Kopitar might be the mot gifted offensive player on this list. However, many Kings fans know that he brings much more to the table. He is a massive 6-3, 225 pounds, which he uses well in all zones. He does not rack up hits like a Backes or Kesler, but he is an extremely physical player. His ability to use his size is crucial to his game, as he is one of the best puck protectors in the game today. This puck possession game is what frustrates the opposition and has Kopitar playing in their end most of the game. With this skill-set combined with the amount of ice time he receives, it is impressive that Kopitar played all of last season with just 10 PIMS. He was nominated for the Selke in 2014 for his stellar play, but fell a tad short. However, he has been the leading scorer on the LA Kings from 2008-2014, and was voted the best defensive King player in 2011 and 2013.
2. Johnathan Toews: ( 81 GP / 66 PTS / +30 / .565 FO% / 7 GWG )
Johnathan Toews is the most accomplished on the list given his young age. At just 27, he has won two Olympic gold medals, two world junior gold medals and three Stanley Cups. He is considered one of the best NHL players in the world, and was recognized as the "Best NHL Player" at the ESPY awards this year. He has never broken the 80 point mark at the NHL level, but he is a consistent 60-70 point guy. He is the best captain in the NHL, and gets the most out of his teammates each season. His resume is so deep that it was very difficult to leave him out of the #1 spot. Regardless of his position on this list, anybody can make a case that Toews may be the best player in the NHL.
1. Patrice Bergeron: ( 81 GP / 55 PTS / .602 FO% / 234 SHOTS / 2 SHP)
This selection should come as no surprise, as Bergeron has won the Selke three times ( 2012, 2014,2015) and is widely considered the best face off center in the game. His ability to win draws consistently has him on the ice for all important face-offs. He is an extremely smart hockey player who does everything well. He never takes a shift off, never takes needless penalties and shows up night in and night out. His consistency and outstanding hockey sense have helped Bergeron become the star that he is today. The reason he gets the #1 spot has a lot to do with his pure shutdown ability. He is the best defensive forward in the game, and possesses the ability to put up 50+ points each year even with average line mates.