NHL Network thinks Patrice Bergeron is just seventh-best center in league

By WEEI 93.7

The NHL Network has disrespected Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins center was ranked seventh on the network’s list of “Top 20 Centers Right Now,” which was revealed Sunday night.

Our Top 20 Centers are... #NHLTopPlayers pic.twitter.com/gNgTUyUqyk

— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 5, 2019

A press release distributed by the network said that the NHL Network experts made their rankings based on performance the “past several seasons, with an emphasis on the 2018-19 season.” The ranking “also weighed players’ projected performance in the 2019-20 season.

Well Bergeron was limited to 65 games because of injury but still had 79 points in those 65 games, and his 1.22 points per game average was third among NHL centers. He won 56.6 percent of his faceoffs. He finished third in the Selke Trophy voting, but just two seasons ago he won the fourth Selke of his career.

So should Bergeron be ranked higher on this list? One could argue about the order of the top three, but Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon are definitely the top three centers in the league. A second tier starts at No. 4, and that’s where the Atlantic Division takes over.

Bruins and Bergeron backers can get a hearty laugh out of Florida’s Aleksander Barkov being ranked fourth, and the Toronto duo of John Tavares and Auston Matthews coming in fifth and sixth, just ahead of Bergeron. Of course none of them are better than Bergeron, even at 34, as two-way centers or postseason performers.

Barkov is the only one who has been a point-per-game player over the past three seasons total, but Tavares, Matthews and Bergeron are all within hundredths of a point of averaging one per game. It wouldn’t be fair to hold Bergeron’s age against him considering he hasn’t yet shown signs of his years catching up to him.

Barkov, Tavares and Matthews are the younger, more dynamic shiny pennies the NHL (and evidently its experts) is counting on providing it with star power well into the next decade, though. If you’re going to rank mostly based on past accomplishments and current performance, Bergeron should really be fourth and remain there until any of those three, or someone else from farther down the list, comes on and takes that spot from Boston’s alternate captain.

Bergeron wasn’t the only one oddly placed on this list. Nicklas Backstrom was ranked 18th, two spots behind his Washington teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov. Backstrom averaged 0.95 points per game to Kuznetsov’s 0.90 last season and won 50.4 percent of his faceoffs to Kuznetsov’s 42.3 percent. Backstrom’s clearly the better two-way center, but the list didn’t value that enough.

Jack Eichel (15th) and Sebastian Aho (14th) are under-23 players that have put up counting stats but haven’t won anything or rounded out their games nearly enough to be ranked ahead of Backstrom, Kuznetsov or even San Jose’s Logan Couture (No. 17). Obviously name recognition played a role in the rankings even if it wasn’t acknowledged as a factor.