The first edition of this list was put together last year, and it is something I am going to update at least once each season. I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often I see poolies place too much of an emphasis on youth and prospects instead of trying to add players who could help them win now.
Using this rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.
Keeping the two-to-three-year window in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league centers to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the scope, the long-term upside of these players is balanced with their NHL readiness.
This list is in order, which means that I wouldn't trade the fourth player straight across for the fifth player, and so on. The one year upside is for 2011-12, and the three year upside is for any season between the next and 2013-14.
1. Sidney Crosby
A horrific concussion isn't enough to slide Crosby down this list. When healthy, he is the best hockey player on the planet. He was hoping to return to the Pittsburgh lineup this spring before suffering a setback during the recovery process, and Crosby owners (like myself) have to be at least somewhat concerned about his long-term health.
There isn't really much else to say – he scores goals, he is the best playmaker in the game, he racks up a respectable amount of PIM with the gritty edge he plays with, and he wins more faceoffs than the rest of the league… combined (at least it seems that way). It will be interesting to see if having a legitimate scoring threat on his line (James Neal, no offense to Chris Kunitz) will change his role back from a scorer to more of a playmaker. Neal hasn't proven much in the NHL without a star center to play with (Brad Richards in Dallas). Thankfully he won't have to in Pittsburgh, unless Crosby and the number two on this list are both injured at the same time again.
I may be alone, but Crosby's upside depends a lot on the role he plays. If he goes back to being primarily a playmaker, I could see some consistent 30-40 goal, 110+ point seasons. If he keeps shooting the puck, his goal total should hover closer to 50, but his overall points would be a bit less. Either way, hope his brain heals, even if you don't own him. Simply put, he's good for the game of hockey, both fantasy and on the ice.
One year upside: 50-80-130, 100 PIM
Three year upside: 50-80-130, 100 PIM
2. Evgeni Malkin
Fool me once, shame on you. I drafted Malkin ahead of any other player outside of Crosby and Ovechkin in my one year pool last year. His ability to fill a variety of categories was too enticing to pass up, and I didn't think Steven Stamkos would be morphing into Brett Hull 2.0 just yet. Fool me twice, shame on me. Call me stubborn, but I'd still take Malkin over Stamkos in both one-year an