Best Centers: 16-20

16 – Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom’s 86 points last season were the most by the Swede since 2009-10, when he put up 101 in his third NHL season. If there was Book on Backstrom, the second paragraph would tell you how he’s so unfairly miscast in Alex Ovechkin’s shadow – which I don’t entirely agree with, I feel the overwhelming consensus within the game is Backstrom is a pretty special player. He’s one of the game’s best playmakers, which is shines brightest on the powerplay, where he anchors one of the top man-advantage units in the league. Backstrom’s 35 powerplay points in 2016-17 led the league on a unit that boasted a 23.1 percent success rate, which was tied with the Penguins for third in the NHL. Since 2011-12, when a concussion cost Backstrom 40 games, he’s missed just seven games, playing all 82 games (or in the case of 2012-13, 48), in four of five seasons.

17 – Jack Eichel

Like I said earlier, the Sabres have one of the better cores in the league. Eichel is the crown jewel. After a high ankle sprain cost him nearly two months to begin last season, the 20-year-old put up 57 points in 61 games, with 36 coming over the final 31. He needs to improve on the draw (35.7 percent on faceoffs) but make no mistake about it, Eichel is on the verge of breaking out as a superstar in this league.

18 – Aleksander Barkov

Best player on a young, talented Panthers team and in short time will be one of the best players in the league. Injuries limited Barkov to 61 games last season but he still managed to put up 52 points. The Fin is the Panthers most dynamic player, who drives play on the ice while taking a bulk of the tough defensive assignments for Florida. The Panthers have their top two centers in Barkov ($5.9 million) and Vincent Trocheck ($4.75 million) locked up through 2021-22 at $10.65 million per year. That’s one of the biggest steals in the league.

19 – Leon Draisaitl

What impact Connor McDavid may or may not have on Draisaitl’s numbers are irrelevant. This kid can flat out play. No, he’s probably not producing 77 points or getting a $68 million deal without McDavid in front of him, but at the end of the day he’s a great two-way forward with few holes in his game. Oilers are setting themselves up nicely with him and McDavid together going forward.

20 – Tyler Seguin

Since being traded to the Stars from the Bruins in 2013, Seguin has 306 points, which ranks fifth in the NHL. To take it a step further, teammate Jamie Benn (who is third in points over that span) had 193 points in four seasons prior to Seguin’s arrival, which was tied for 54th in the league over that span. His creativity and speed in the open ice is among the best in the game.

Second Look: Sabres complete third-period comeback against San Jose

The misfortunes in Buffalo continued on Tuesday night for the San Jose Sharks, blowing a 4-1 third period to lose in overtime.

The loss marked 17 losses in 19 games for San Jose in Buffalo. The Sabres scored three times in a 2:28 span, beginning with Ryan O’Reilly’s powerplay goal with 10:57 to play. Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo followed the next two scores to tie the game before Kane scored again in overtime on a feed from Jack Eichel.

The third period has been a weakness for the Sharks this season. San Jose is a minus-six in the third this season, compared with a plus-one in the second and a plus-24 in the first. The Sharks 55 goals allowed in the third period is tied for seventh-most in the NHL with Calgary.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are plus-two in the final 20 minutes of regulation in addition to being 6-5 in overtime. Buffalo has seized the extra point in four of its last five overtimes.

Thoughts Are My Own: Trouba Has No Leverage

Thoughts as you realize it’s the first day of November. Woah, it’s the first day of November.

*Jacob Trouba is being Jonathan Drouin-ed. And will continue to be. The Jets want what no team will give for his services. He’s a solid, top four defenseman at 21 years old. He has the size, he has the projection of being a top defenseman. Winnipeg will let the situation ride itself out until the December 1 deadline, where which Trouba will forgo a full season should he not be signed then, which only hurts his value. Ball is in the court of Kevin Cheveldayoff and company.

*Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid facing off for the first time ever is the headliner of Tuesday’s games, and rightfully so; they’re special talents, the two most recent first overall picks, and two of the best in recent memory. But here’s some other matchups that might catch your eye: Tampa Bay at Islanders, Steven Stamkos vs. John Tavares in another showdown of first overall picks; Washington at Winnipeg, Alex Ovechkin vs. Patrik Laine, the greatest goal scorer of the post-lockout years against what looks like the next great goal scorer the game bears witness to; and Anaheim at Los Angeles needs no explanation.

*The matchup (not Tuesday, obviously, but down the road) I find most compelling is Toronto vs. Buffalo. Matthews vs. Jack Eichel in a showdown of the two top American youngsters, two guys who are among the faces in U.S. hockey as teenagers. This is only made better by the natural geographic rivalry that exists with the two franchises fighting for the love of southern Ontario.

*Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday that there will be no changes to the All-Star Game voting format, which if true is the right decision. Last year’s game was as successful as it had been in quite some time, no need to overthink it. The league has bigger fish to fry.

*Nothing wrong with Mikhail Sergachev, the ninth overall pick in this past June’s draft, being sent back to Windsor. He’d played just three games in Montreal, might as well get another year of OHL experience under his belt. He’ll be on a Spitfires team that features fellow first rounder Logan Stanley on the back line and 11th overall pick Logan Brown up front. Sean Day was a third round pick.

*Ohio State hockey is out to a 5-0-2 start to the season, moving up to No. 11 in the poll. The Buckeyes should only expound on the strong record, with doubleheaders against Robert Morris, UConn, and RPI awaiting in the next three weekends. The big challenge doesn’t come until after Thanksgiving, when Ohio State travels to Minnesota to open its Big 10 schedule.


Dave Tippett has a motorcycle shop in his house.

Bruce Boudreau was ‘grumpy’ at the Wild practice on Monday as Minnesota rode a short bench for multitude of reasons.

The latest in the class-action lawsuit that faces the CHL and threatens to change the landscape of major junior hockey in Canada.

Teams led by Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin benefitting from questionable offseason transactions the two general managers made for the respective organizations, the Edmonton Oilers (Chiarelli) and the Montreal Canadiens (Bergevin).

Jay Bouwmeester reflects upon his career to date as he approaches his 1,000th career NHL game.

Coyotes rookie forward Christian Dvorak gets sent down to the AHL. The 20-year-old had three assists in seven games while averaging 13:45 of ice time per night.

A question nobody has asked, or even thought of – could Matthews/McDavid be the next great NHL rivalry?

In case you missed it: Episode two of the Bobcast with Bob McKenzie. He does a really good job with these, really offers a bit of everything; from inside information to the sharing of knowledge of the game to even veering outside the game. Worth the listen.