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Kovalchuk says Pavel Datsyuk is the world’s best center

Dec 12, 2012, 9:27 PM EDT

Pavel Datsyuk AP

Who would you say the best center in all of hockey would be? If you asked Ilya Kovalchuk he’d tell you it’s Pavel Datsyuk.

Kovalchuk shared his thoughts with Russian website when asked about who the best of the best was as they’re about to be linemates for Team Russia in the upcoming Euro Hockey Tour.

“I personally consider Datsyuk the best center in the world, so there’s great satisfaction and experience from playing alongside him.”

Consider just how lofty a compliment this is when you have, among others, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, and Steven Stamkos to choose from in the world. There may be just a smidgen of bias talking about his new linemate, but Datsyuk belongs in the discussion considering his offensive and defensive abilities (three-time Selke winner).

Somewhere, Travis Zajac is sitting around asking, “Hey, I’m pretty good, right?”

  1. hawksandsawx - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Not mentioning Toews was a bit of an oversight, eh?

    • Joe Yerdon - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      If I listed everyone else who is great, it’d make for a pretty long story. But yes, Toews belongs in the conversation.

    • xavier46 - Dec 13, 2012 at 1:15 AM

      Eh, no, Toews does not crack the top 5.

      Datsyuk, Crosby, Malkin, Giroux, and Stamkos are all above Toews and I don’t think it can be questioned, it’s not that close… Other than that Toews is probably sixth.

    • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      Zero objectivity from the moronic hawks fan. You grow up playing puck? Didn’t think so. Only got into it when the hawks became relevant and the rest of you bandwagon fans jumped on board. Leave the hockey talk to the adults.

      • hawksandsawx - Dec 15, 2012 at 10:11 PM

        I did grow up playing actually. Toews is a better hockey player than Stamkos. Conn Smythe, best forward at the olympics, best face off man in the league. Its not all about goals. I’d say Datsyuk, Crosby, and Malkin are in a class of their own. Then guys like Giroux and Toews

  2. steelhammer92 - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    Supporting your fellow countryman does not equal reality. It’s not even a question Crosby is the best in the world.

    • bensawesomeness - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      saying that about a player who plays for your hometown team is one of the more hypocritical things I’ve ever seen

  3. bensawesomeness - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    As a Detroit fan who -normally- gets to watch him, night in, night out, i can tell you he’s definitely top 3, and obviously you can make a case for a few other guys in that conversation, but Datsyuk sees the game differently than your average guy, and he’s damn good at making things happen on the ice.

    His numbers have never been up around near Sid’s or some other guy’s, but he’s just as dangerous in my opinion.

    Chara picked him #1 overall last year in the all-star draft, and i think that speaks volumes, especially with Kovy chiming in now.

    It’s been a pleasure and a joy getting to watch him play in the Winged Wheel

    • crosberries - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM

      Seriously? An all star game pick?

      • bensawesomeness - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM

        Good point.

        Still damn good.

  4. sergeikremlin - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    If you’re factoring in both ends of the rink, he gets my vote. He’s a magician at one end and a thief at the other. Gets a ton of respect from his peers, so this is not surprising to hear.

    If you’re talking pure offense, it’s Malkin at the moment.

    • nyrnashty - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:43 AM

      Exactly and when talking about Centers it’s all about both ends of the ice. Datsyuk is clearly the best all around center right now. The other younger guys will be fun to watch their all around skills improve moving forward.

  5. Stiller43 - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    Being a current linemate and fellow countryman certainly can help get his vote.

    Being a burgh fan, i’d place my vote for crosby, but i would certainly put datsuyk in the top 2-5. He is ridiculously skilled and i love watching him play. I dont like the wings but like pavel.

  6. 13datsyuk13 - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    He’s easily the most exciting player in the world. When he’s on the ice I’m on the edge of my chair because magic can happen at any second.

  7. boardupthehouse - Dec 12, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Toews, Kopitar, TOEWS!?

    • boardupthehouse - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:27 AM

      You’re all idiots

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        you mad because nobody agrees with you? Poor guy, maybe you should try liking your own commnet 30 more times, really sway the numbers. Priceless.

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        Toews is a stud, but you aruging for him like he’s the greatest in the game just shows how worthless your opinion is, Get it together loser.

  8. id4joey - Dec 12, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    All these guys above are obviously deserving to be in the top ten, and so is Nicklas Backstrom.

  9. hockeyfan28 - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:09 AM

    it’s Giroux 1 Crosby 2 Datsuyk 3…..Pavel’s incredible but he’s just to injury prone anymore Crosby and Giroux will be the best duel in hockey for the next 5 years.

    • torrigjp - Dec 13, 2012 at 8:29 AM

      Giroux had surgery on both wrists and crosby missed almost all of last season…making them not injury prone apparently

      • hockeyfan28 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

        Their also not 34

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        Right but your comment was injury prone. Just because you made an asinine comment doesn’t mean you can ignore it now and cite age. To even humor the idea that Sid isn’t injury prone is pathetic. I hate Crosby being a Wings fan, but the dude is unbelieveable with the puck. Unfortunately, he is the definition of injury prone.

    • sdollaoftheyear - Dec 14, 2012 at 1:02 AM

      This clearly is an idiotic statement. Crosby missed 101 games over the last 2 seasons. Dude can hardly place his helmet on his head without getting another concussion…

  10. wingsrule12 - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    Crosby is one hard check away from retiring will scrambled brain cells. So how can you say Pavel is injury prone. Besides if you think about it Pavel has two rings to Cindy’s one and has played fewer years. Crosby is supposed to be the face of the league and seems to disappear come April May and June

    • killerpgh - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:44 AM

      Do you have any clue what you are talking about? How has Datsyuk played less years than Crosby? Datsyuk is 34 years old and has been in the NHL since 01-02. Crosby was around 15 years old when Datsyuk made his NHL debut.

    • sportsfreak13 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:04 AM

      90 points in 68 games in april, may, and june is a disappearing act? C’mon man.

  11. nyrnashty - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    I agree with Kovalchuk, It’s really not even close. His defense can’t be compared with the others, It’s just at another level and I like all of the Centers and Toews should be mentioned.

    • tcclark - Dec 14, 2012 at 1:15 AM

      I’ve been a big Datsyuk fan for a while now, and I’m tempted to agree that he’s the best because of his all around game, but you can’t say that it’s not even close. I understand your mindset that you have to look at the overall game, not just the offensive side, but there are other two-way hockey players that make it a close call. Even if you only consider guys who play both sides of the puck, you can’t tell me it’s not close between Pavel Datsyuk and Claude Giroux. Claude Giroux is a dedicated defensive player and actually played a full minute per game of shorthanded ice time more than Datsyuk. Not saying that he is better defensively than Datsyuk cause he’s not, but I think his offensive advantage makes up for the difference.

  12. hockeyfan28 - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    You can make a pretty good case that Datsuyk isn’t even the best Red Wings center with Zetterberg there much less in Crosby or Giroux’s class

    • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      Right you just lost all credibility. I’ve watched Z and Pav play night in night out since they were 4th liners on the Wings. You are just an ignorant clown that thinks he knows hockey because he played house growing up now plays NHL on his xbox. Clueless.

  13. garrison1981 - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:05 AM

    Giroux is nowhere near as good as Datsyuk n never will be! Crosby is higher scorer but two-way player hands down Datsyuk is best!

  14. garrison1981 - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    ..and your right! Zetterberg is better than Giroux too!

    • hockeyfan28 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      neither one made NHL 13 cover so fans evidentially agree with me

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:29 PM

        right because that is how talent is measured. By video game covers. Seriously, you are scary stupid.

  15. hotloinsofsid - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    soup can sid is the best center that ever played the game with pringles can geno. who the hell is claudette girioux?

  16. broadstbully33 - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    Datsyuk, Malkin, Giroux, crybaby, stamkos. That’s they way it’s is. Datsyuk is by far the funnest player to watch

    • sportsfreak13 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      So lets recap crosby has olympic gold, stanley cup, hart, art-ross, and other individual awards in his career. Giroux has the cover of EA sports NHL 13. Giroux is older and yet according to you better then crosby. Just process all that for a minute.

      • hockeyfan28 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:32 AM

        Well Giroux is

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:32 PM

        hes from philly of course he is biased. I’m not a fan of either Penn teams, so let me give my objective opinion. Giroux is a great player, extremely talented offensively. Obviously same with Sid, but a superior defender. Both are injury prone (which is not a slight, just a common fact of a violent game). If I could have one or them, my choice would be Crosby. That’s not to say Giroux won’t have a better career. Both are incredible.

      • jgus93 - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        You can’t really say one player is better than another based on team accomplishments either. Saying a player is better than the other because of a Stanley Cup or Olympic gold is almost as silly as mentioning a video game cover.

      • sportsfreak13 - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:59 PM

        He scored the game winning goal for gold and finished 3 points behind the conn smythe winner the year they won the cup. His individual success led to team success at the highest level.

      • jgus93 - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:55 PM

        Teams win games, not individuals. He might have had the game winning goal but the defense and other players helped aid Team Canada to the gold the most, not Sidney Crosby.

      • sportsfreak13 - Dec 14, 2012 at 12:03 AM

        Still contributed more the having fans vote for their favorite player for the cover. Which seems more silly/meaningless to you?

  17. travishenryskid - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    A lot of homers in here. If I were to pick them in order for one game (so we can discuss skill, not injuries), it would go:


  18. 13datsyuk13 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Correct, Datsyuk was winning cups when Crosby was still learning to tie his shoes. I think Malkin is a better all around player than Crosby. You guys are getting caught up in your flyer/pens rivalry and are forgetting the topic.

    • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      Shocker. Pens and Flyers fans getting emotionally unstable?

  19. michiganhockey11 - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    This article is not news to Wings fans…….although even as a Wings fan I would have Crosby, Stamkos and Giroux as my top 4.

    • zetaone - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      I don’t know how Stamkos enters the discussion of top 5 overall. He’s a goal scorer’s goal scorer, that’s all. He’s terrible at faceoffs, and isn’t the most responsible defensively. Not the hallmarks of a ‘top 5’ center IMO.

      • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        Well said zetaone. Still though, 60 goals in a season is going to trump faceoff % and backchecking prowess all day. Just the way of the sportscenter world we live in.

      • zetaone - Dec 13, 2012 at 1:31 PM

        I agree to an extent. Center is such a harder role to play than wing. I don’t know why he doesn’t work on faceoffs more in the off season. Lecavalier takes most of the key draws when they’re both on the ice.

        I remember when Crosby first joined the league, he was TERRRRRIBLE at faceoffs. He worked all of that off season, and is now #1 or 2 overall in faceoff wins each year (him and Toews).

  20. geo91 - Dec 13, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    The fact that Datsyuk is 34 can also be a knock against him, he’s slowing down and has a lot more wear and tear on him than the younglings. That said Giroux had one breakout season so lets pump the breaks on that one a bit, Crosby has more killer instinct on offense than Datsyuk and is a more consistent finisher but Datsyuk is way better defensively, has a ton of takeaways and its not like he doesn’t score. Right now I’d say he’s the best overall player

  21. hockeydon10 - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    2012 CBC NHLPA Players’ Poll
    Datsyuk tops for:
    Smartest Player (45% of respondents placed Datsyuk as their answer)
    Most Difficult to Play Against (26%)
    Hardest to Take the Puck From (47%)
    Goalies Only: Most Difficult to Stop (24%)
    Cleanest Player (21%)
    Toughest Forward to Play Against (25%)


    • dangle13x - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      What do they know? Crosby is the best because I like penguins.

      • killerpgh - Dec 13, 2012 at 8:34 PM

        Considering in the ame poll the players vote Crosby as the player they would want to start a fanchise with I think that a lot about who they think the best is. Crosby had over double the votes of the 2nd place guy.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1884)
  2. P. Kessel (1735)
  3. M. Richards (1485)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1287)
  5. N. Backstrom (1211)