With the 2015-2016 season officially behind us and new Stanley Cup Champions crowned, now would be a good time to look back at this past season and reflect on all the amazing performances we’ve seen. There have been a lot of spectacular players both in the regular and post-season, but I want to try to narrow it down to a sort of post-Stanley Cup All-Star team, encompassing the truly great players from this season. This will not be an easy task, as picking the best players from this past season must incorporate more than just goals and assists, but each player’s true value to their teams, and to the entire league. These players must have truly made an impact on their team’s success, whilst also acquiring personal glory through the season. And of course, this All-star team will include player performances from both the regular season and playoffs. For the formation of this All-Star team we’re going to pick the top four players at each forward position, and top six defenders and explain why they deserve to be on the team. So here are this season’s NHL All-Star centers.
No matter who you are or what team you’re a fan of when you think of the best center in the league this year you think of one man, Sidney Crosby. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is deserving of my number one spot on the roster. Crosby excelled in both the regular and post-seasons this year, finishing third in points for the regular season and sixth in the playoffs. “The Kid” made an impact in every zone and on every shift that he played, giving his team whatever they needed to get the win. The combination of his speed on the ice, his incredible vision, and passing ability, and his comprehensive knowledge of the game and his teammates all put together made him the unstoppable force that he was in this past season. He had six goals and 13 assists in the playoffs, won 52.4% of his faceoffs and averaged a little over 27 shifts per game.
Next on the short list for top centers this year has to be San Jose’s Joe Pavelski. The recently appointed captain for the Sharks had quite an incredible season this year. In the regular season, Pavelski had the fifth highest goals total (38) and was also tied for fifth in the points column (78). He also excelled in the post-season, leading his team to the Stanley Cup Finals and was first in the league in playoff goals (14) and third in total points (23) behind teammates Brent Burns and Logan Couture.
For the third center on my NHL All-Star list, I had to go with Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson. Although Johnson had a bit of a rough regular season this year, he turned it up in typical Tyler Johnson fashion for the Lightning’s playoff run. He registered 17 points in his 17 playoff games, averaging a point every game, and finished ninth overall for points scored. Although ninth doesn’t sound like the most impressive, take into consideration that everyone who finished above him, with the exception of Nikita Kucherov, played seven games in the Final. Johnson finished fourth in +/- with +9, and second in game-winning goals with three, one less than he had last postseason. Two of his three game-winning goals came in the Penguins series, but Tampa Bay still fell short of making the final. Regardless of his team’s success, Johnson still showed his superstar capabilities with the performance he put on in the postseason.
The final center on my list is a man with 18 years of experience in the NHL, another San Jose Sharks center by the name of Joe Thornton to be exact. This season like many other before this, Thornton was an assist monster for his team. He finished fourth in the regular season with 82 points, and fifth in the playoffs with 21. He also finished second in both the regular season and playoffs in assists with 63 and 18 respectively. San Jose’s ex-captain showed that even without wearing the ‘C’, he can still lead his team to their first ever Stanley Cup Final.