Here's a hockey-style line's worth of centers (with a bonus focus on the second-tier elite) to take a closer look at for the second half. Some are guys that may be on the waiver wire, others the big guns to look at acquiring or dumping in trades for the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs.
Three Pushing Up (Underrated)
The three guys this week are all guys to look to pick up off your waiver wire and fill out team depth. They're not on the league's best teams but should be owned in most 10-12 team leagues with 4-5 centers on each team:
Bryan Little: The Thrashers' super sophomore has already scored 21 goals (a whopping seven on the power play) and has 104 shots in 45 games. Little was the 12th overall pick in the 2006 draft and his line, with Slava Kozlov and Todd White, has pretty much been Atlanta's best this year. That says something given that a recently rejuvenated Ilya Kovalchuk is on the other line – and Little gets top power-play minutes with Kovalchuk and the gang. He's part of the core Atlanta will build around and with a lot of Southeast games coming up down the stretch, don't expect too much of a drop off in production even as Atlanta fades out of the playoff race.
RJ Umberger: Traded from Philly in the offseason to be a top-six forward in Columbus along with the likes of Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, Umberger has been hot (November) and cold (October) this year, but is still well on pace to shatter his previous career-high in goals (20) with 15 (five PPG) through the All-Star break. With 130 shots through those 48 games, expect him to clear 200 shots and keep getting his chances. If Nash and others can avoid injuries, Umberger may just have settled in and have a nice stretch run as Columbus tries to ride Steve Mason and a little bit of offense into a playoff spot in the Wild West.
Stephen Weiss: Unlike the other two, Weiss is a more typical disher at center. He only has seven goals and 74 shots but has 22 assists in 43 games and is a remarkable plus-12 despite Florida's inconsistent goaltending this year. Nathan Horton has recently been shifted back to center and the Panthers have responded well while Weiss gets top power-play minutes with Horton, Bryan McCabe, Jay Bouwmeester, & Co. Especially if you need assists (and if Weiss plays with David Booth), he's worth taking a chance on down the stretch – particularly as Florida will also benefit from the division-heavy part of the schedule down the stretch.
Little is owned in 65 percent of ESPN leagues, while Umberger's in only 15 percent and Weiss sits at just seven percent. If you are in a similar league, check their respective availability.
Two Dropping Back (Overrated)
Anze Kopitar: It's not that this 21-year-old with huge upside has been bad, but it's all about rankings and Kopitar hasn't lived up to his billing after last year's 32-goal breakout. He's still getting assists (on pace for 50) but with only 12 goals this year, he's looking at 20 more than 30, and only has three on the power play after getting 12 last year. He doesn't get a lot of PIMs, and is a minus-8 on an improving but not-quite-there-yet LA team. By no means should you cut him, but I'd much rather have guys like Michael Cammalleri, Jason Spezza, Derek Roy, Brad Richards, Mats Sundin, or Robert Lang for the rest of the season. See if you can leverage his name and the hopes of a late-season charge for one of those other players or help at another position.
Jonathan Toews: This is really about a reevaluation of the second tier of elite centers (think back-half of the top-15) for the stretch run than it is just about Toews. It is worth mentioning that Toews may be having trouble adjusting to being team captain or that he's the only true scoring center the Hawks have (something that could be finally fixed at the trade deadline), but 36 points in 45 games is below expectations for this supersoph, and wingman Patrick Kane may have a lingering injury (although it shouldn't be too bad since he played in the All-Star Game).