Critiquing power play units and campaigning for certain players that deserve a spot on the PP.
If you have been following FantasyPuck for a while now, you would know that power play time is an important factor we consider when evaluating a player’s fantasy performance and value. A decade ago, power plays would almost always consist of three forwards and two defenseman. Nowadays, that formation is considered unusual. Teams have taken a more offensive approach to their man-advantage and will often make up their PP units with four forwards and one defenseman. Sometimes, even resorting to five forwards! There are, of course, more risks associated with a four to five forward crew on the PP. That being a lack reliable defense should there be any shorthanded opportunities or rushes. With so few shorthanded goals being scored in any given season, the advantages to an offensive-driven PP outweigh any worry a coach may have about his/her team being scored on. With that being said, fans (myself included) love to complain about lines and who sees the ice on a 5v4 or 5v3 power play. In this article I will take a look at some notable power play units, how they have performed and who I believe deserves a chance on said unit.
Kailer Yamamoto IN
James Neal OR Alex Chiasson OR Tyler Ennis OUT
This is a confusing one for me. After tearing up the Spokane Chiefs (WHL) for four seasons, Yamamoto has appeared to have found a permanent spot in the Oilers lineup after a couple of seasons bouncing between the NHL and AHL. Edmonton, as a whole, has not looked too thrilling with the exception of McDavid and Draisaitl, but “Yams” has not looked out of place at all in the Oilers’ top-six. The incredible thing about Yamamoto is that it appears he is banned from the power play. Edmonton appears ready to give anyone and
everyone a shot on the PP except their 22-year old scorer. Recently waived Alex Chiasson, recently waived James Neal and recently bought out Kyle Turris have all seen more PP time than Yamamoto has this season. Say what you want about power play formation and players such as Chiasson being used in front of the net. A team such as Edmonton who struggles to find scoring outside of their two stars, should consider Yams. He currently leads all Edmonton forwards in 5v5 goals (4) and his 4.1 xGF is over 2.0 xGF higher than Chiasson, Neal or Ennis. Perhaps the Oilers’ PP% being a respectable 10th in the league is causing the coaching staff not to touch it, but realistically you could put McDavid and Draisaitl with 3 peewee players and they would still produce on the PP.
Connor Brown IN
Derek Stepan OUT
It is no secret that Ottawa is still a couple of years away from competing. The North Division alignment does not help their cause as these blowouts and high-scoring games is not good for their youngsters or their goaltending development. They have quietly had solid offensive numbers, but a lack of consistent goaltending and defending has led them to the bottom of the division. Their PP ranks 25th in the league at a measly 13.1% justifying a change such as this. Connor Brown, just last season was third on the team in goals (16) and xGF (18.6), yet somehow finds himself hardly in the power play plans. He has played more than Yamamoto has in my previous paragraph, but not nearly enough to be evaluated properly. Last year’s Sens saw a lot of personnel changes on the ice, but Brown still
ranked fifth among forwards in PP time. Without a doubt, the new faces that cracked the roster such as Dadonov, Stuetzle and Norris were bound to tale some PP and 5v5 time away from Brown, but never did I think he would be removed entirely in favour of Derek Stepan. Stepan has yet to score on the PP this year and only has two points in 15 games. Hence the demotion to the 4C role. Why does Ottawa still think Stepan has earned a spot on PP2? It was recently revealed that Stepan would welcome a trade out of Canada due to family reasons, and while we cannot hold that against him, I would not be surprised if it was impacting him mentally whether on or off the ice. I would imagine GM Pierre Dorion has been reaching out within the league to find a suitable trade partner and once moved, Brown should expect to see a larger role when they're on the man-advantage.
Owen Tippett OR Eetu Luostarinen IN
Anton Stralman OUT
Florida has come out of the gate surprisingly hot this season and a large factor in that is
their successful power play. They currently rank fifth in the NHL at 32.4% meaning there should be no reason to mess with the PP units. With that being said, Florida also appears to be content with playing their youngsters and rookies. Their current PP1 has two defenseman on it. Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. Both of whom deserve a spot on the man-advantage, but where I question the strategy is on PP2. Anton Stralman, at 34-years old is quarterbacking the Panthers’ second unit. I am a believer in the saying “don’t fix what’s not broken”, but perhaps Florida could consider playing one of these young guns such as Owen Tippett or Eetu Luostarinen (who has already played some 3v3 OT). I would want these rookies to come in seeing success, and what better way to do so than seeing some power play time? Move Yandle down to quarterback PP2, and slot in Luostarinen onto PP1. Stralman, who seems like he has been in the league forever, sports a 0.5 xGF this season while Tippett and Luostarinen are 1.1 xGF and 2.3 xGF respectively. Having a veteran presence like Stralman’s is valuable on your blue line, but allowing your youngsters to gain some confidence on a PP unit that many fans would expect them to be on in upcoming years, seems like a better solution to me.
Thanks for reading another FP Don article. Let me know if I missed any players that you believe deserve a crack at the power play, or someone that you hate seeing take the ice on the man advantage.