The center position is pivotal to every top team. Most of the time, it’s a center who becomes the team’s talisman, as the top line pivots are the ones who win possession, dictate the play, and work both ends of the ice.
In ice hockey, offence invariably runs through the center, and if you have one of the top centers in NHL 21, you have an even better chance of turning possession into goals.
Here, you’ll find all of the highest-rated top centers of NHL 21, with the very best featured just before the full list at the foot of the page.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (95 OVR)
Overall Rating: 95
Team: Edmonton Oilers
Player Type: Playmaker
Best Attributes: 98 Offensive Awareness, 97 Acceleration, 97 Passing
Known as ‘The Next One,’ Connor McDavid continues to prove himself as one of the best players in the league, consistently ranking among the highest-scoring players in each campaign.
Had last season not ended 11 games short for the Edmonton Oilers, the team captain will have almost certainly secured his fourth consecutive 100-plus point campaign, finishing on 97 points in 64 games.
McDavid ranks as the highest-rated player in NHL 21, and thus, the top center – easily standing as the most user-friendly forward in the game. He’s also the second-best at deking in NHL 21.
The left-shot playmaker comes in with 97 passing, 96 hand-eye, 96 deking, 98 offensive awareness, 93 slap shot accuracy, 95 wrist shot accuracy, 97 acceleration, 97 speed, and 97 agility.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (93 OVR)
Overall Rating: 93
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Player Type: Playmaker
Best Attributes: 95 Poise, 95 Passing, 95 Stick Checking
An irrefutable future hall of famer, Sidney Crosby is one of the primary reasons why the Pittsburgh Penguins have made it to each of the last 14 postseasons.
In just 16 games’ time, the Cole Harbour-native will join the 1,000 club and will do so in style. At 984 regular season games in, Crosby already had 462 goals and 1,263 points – not to mention his 189 points in 168 playoff games.
McDavid’s senior by a decade, Crosby is still rated among the best players in NHL 21, with his 93 OVR being just a couple of points back of the Oilers captain.
Still a top-class playmaker with plenty of time left, Crosby offers any lucky team 95 poise, 91 faceoffs, 95 stick checking, 93 agility, 95 passing, 93 wrist shot accuracy, 94 deking, and 94 puck control.
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (92 OVR)
Overall Rating: 92
Team: Edmonton Oilers
Player Type: Sniper
Best Attributes: 94 Offensive Awareness, 94 Passing, 93 Hand-Eye
Having been taken third in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, expectations were high for Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, being brought into the NHL lines for 37 games in the season that the Oilers picked him.
Then, McDavid arrived, and the WHL-developed German went from strength-to-strength with each passing season, with the duo now emulating something akin to a modern Gretzky-Kurri combo.
The reigning Art Ross Trophy winner comes into NHL 21 as a multi-position forward (both a center and a left wing), with his 92 OVR making him one of the best players at either position.
Draisaitl’s 79 faceoffs and 90 poise ratings make him a decent center in the duel, but his 93 slap shot accuracy, 92 slap shot power, 93 wrist shot accuracy, and 91 wrist shot power have him best-suited to feeding off of a playmaker.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (92 OVR)
Overall Rating: 92
Team: Colorado Avalanche
Player Type: Playmaker
Best Attributes: 94 Speed, 94 Offensive Awareness, 94 Passing
The first overall pick of the 2013 Draft was noted for his blistering pace and savvy in the offensive end, but in the years since, Nathan MacKinnon has also upped the physical side of his game tremendously.
Still demonstrating the skill, speed, and knack for scoring flashy goals that convinced the Colorado Avalanche to pinch him at the top of the bill, the Canadian is now a hefty contender all over the ice, owing to his 183cm, 93kg frame.
In NHL 21, Colorado’s leading point scorer of 2019/20 (by a clear 43 points) boasts a 92 overall rating and a set of attribute ratings that emphasise his skill and speed on the puck.
MacKinnon’s highlight ratings include his 93 deking, 93 hand-eye, 93 puck control, 92 stick checking, 93 acceleration, 93 agility, 94 speed, and 88 strength.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (91 OVR)
Overall Rating: 91
Team: Boston Bruins
Player Type: Two-Way Forward
Best Attributes: 95 Poise, 95 Defensive Awareness, 95 Stick Checking
Revered as one of the best two-way centers in the modern game, even at 35-years-old, Patrice Bergeron is still a leading contender for the Frank J. Selke Trophy each year, standing on a joint-record of four to date.
Last season, the Bruins center put up 56 points in 61 games, but more impressively, he was only dealt 25 penalty minutes, put up 203 shots on goal, 46 hits, 46 blocked shots, and held an incredible 57.9 faceoff win percentage through 1,311 duels.
Bergeron stands as the best two-way center in NHL 21, and even over the coming seasons when his overall rating begins to decay, his defensive attribute ratings remain very high.
The 35-year-old is still a top center at both ends of the ice, thanks to his 95 defensive awareness, 94 offensive awareness, 95 poise, 94 faceoffs, 95 stick checking, and 92 passing.
All of the top centers in NHL 21
Sorted by their overall ratings at the start of NHL 21, these are all of the top centers in the game.
|Connor McDavid||95||Playmaker||23||Edmonton Oilers||98 Offensive Awareness, 97 Acceleration, 97 Passing|
|Sidney Crosby||93||Playmaker||33||Pittsburgh Penguins||95 Poise, 95 Passing, 95 Stick Checking|
|Leon Draisaitl||92||Sniper||24||Edmonton Oilers||94 Passing, 94 Offensive Awareness, 93 Hand-Eye|
|Nathan MacKinnon||92||Playmaker||25||Colorado Avalanche||94 Passing, 94 Offensive Awareness, 94 Speed|
|Patrice Bergeron||91||Two-Way Forward||35||Boston Bruins||95 Poise, 95 Stick Checking, 95 Defensive Awareness|
|Evgeni Malkin||91||Playmaker||34||Pittsburgh Penguins||95 Poise, 95 Hand-Eye, 95 Puck Control|
|Jack Eichel||91||Playmaker||23||Buffalo Sabres||94 Passing, 94 Puck Control, 94 Offensive Awareness|
|Steven Stamkos||90||Playmaker||30||Tampa Bay Lightning||95 Passing, 95 Puck Control, 94 Deking|
|Auston Matthews||90||Sniper||22||Toronto Maple Leafs||95 Poise, 94 Puck Control, 93 Wrist Shot Accuracy|
|Anze Kopitar||90||Two-Way Forward||33||Los Angeles Kings||93 Stick Checking, 92 Defensive Awareness, 92 Wrist Shot Power|
|Aleksander Barkov||90||Two-Way Forward||25||Florida Panthers||94 Puck Control, 93 Passing, 93 Stick Checking|
|Brayden Point||89||Playmaker||24||Tampa Bay Lightning||93 Agility, 93 Offensive Awareness, 92 Wrist Shot Accuracy|
|Mark Scheifele||89||Playmaker||27||Winnipeg Jets||93 Passing, 93 Offensive Awareness, 92 Deking|
|Tyler Seguin||89||Playmaker||28||Dallas Stars||94 Passing, 93 Deking, 93 Puck Control|
|Ryan O’Reilly||89||Two-Way Forward||29||St. Louis Blues||95 Faceoffs, 93 Defensive Awareness, 93 Stick Checking|
|John Tavares||89||Sniper||29||Toronto Maple Leafs||93 Deking, 93 Passing, 93 Puck Control|
|Evgeny Kuznetsov||89||Playmaker||28||Washington Capitals||95 Deking, 94 Passing, 94 Wrist Shot Accuracy|
|Elias Pettersson||89||Two-Way Forward||21||Vancouver Canucks||94 Deking, 94 Passing, 94 Puck Control|
|Dylan Larkin||88||Playmaker||24||Detroit Red Wings||94 Acceleration, 93 Speed, 92 Offensive Awareness|
|Sebastian Aho||88||Two-Way Forward||23||Carolina Hurricanes||92 Offensive Awareness, 92 Passing, 92 Puck Control|
|Nicklas Backstrom||88||Playmaker||32||Washington Capitals||93 Deking, 93 Passing, 93 Puck Control|
|Sean Couturier||88||Two-Way Forward||27||Philadelphia Flyers||92 Defensive Awareness, 91 Endurance, 91 Stick Checking|
|Claude Giroux||88||Playmaker||32||Philadelphia Flyers||94 Passing, 94 Puck Control, 93 Deking|
|Jonathan Toews||87||Two-Way Forward||32||Chicago Blackhawks||95 Poise, 93 Faceoffs, 93 Stick Checking|
|Matt Duchene||87||Playmaker||29||Nashville Predators||94 Speed, 93 Agility, 93 Acceleration|
|Mika Zibanejad||87||Two-Way Forward||27||New York Rangers||90 Stick Checking, 90 Agility, 90 Endurance|
|Bo Horvat||86||Two-Way Forward||25||Vancouver Canucks||91 Stick Checking, 90 Faceoffs, 89 Endurance|
|Logan Couture||86||Playmaker||31||San Jose Sharks||90 Acceleration, 90 Speed, 90 Deking|
|Sean Monahan||86||Two-Way Forward||25||Calgary Flames||90 Offensive Awareness, 90 Puck Control, 90 Passing|
|Mathew Barzal||86||Playmaker||23||New York Islanders||94 Speed, 92 Passing, 92 Deking|
|Brayden Schenn||86||Two-Way Forward||29||St. Louis Blues||89 Deking, 89 Hand-Eye, 89 Puck Control|
|J.T. Miller||86||Two-Way Forward||27||Vancouver Canucks||89 Stick Checking, 89 Offensive Awareness, 88 Strength|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||86||Two-Way Forward||27||Edmonton Oilers||92 Passing, 91 Agility, 91 Puck Control|
|Pierre-Luc Dubois||86||Power Forward||22||Columbus Blue Jackets||90 Durability, 89 Passing, 89 Puck Control|
If you want one of the top centers of NHL 21, pick one of the skaters from the table above.
Want to learn more about playing NHL 21?
NHL 21: Complete Controls Guide (Goalie, Faceoffs, Offense, and Defense) for PS4 and Xbox One
NHL 21: Complete Deke Guide, Tutorial, and Tips
NHL 21: Best and Worst Teams to Use and Rebuild
NHL 21 Ratings: Best Enforcers
NHL 21 Draft: Best Prospects and Top Draft Steals 2021
NHL 21 Franchise Mode: Best Young Players
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