Top 10 Power-Play Surprises 2019-20
One of the big things about looking back on a season is realizing how wrong we were on some of our assumptions.
Of course, it's hard to admit now. With the benefit of hindsight, we all knew that player was going to break out. We just didn't draft or trade for that player because of reasons that made a lot of sense at the time.
For most players, the reason for a breakout season can be traced back to power-play production. After all, a successful power play can boost a player's production by an extra 10-20 points. If your league counts power-play points as a category, any type of unexpected production is a boost for you.
Below are 10 players who have been surprises on the power play this year. Remember that this doesn't mean they are the best power-play producers. After all, a player that wasn't expected to get any man-advantage points that suddenly nets 15 is a much bigger shock than the player that was expected to get 30 and wound up with 37.
10. Oscar Klefbom
Klefbom's 18 power-play points don't seem as impressive as some of the others on this list, but remember what he went through the past couple of years. There have been numerous times when he lost his spot on the top unit (including almost the entire second half of last season), and talk in the offseason was that either Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear or Evan Bouchard was going to usurp Klefbom full-time. Instead, Klefbom started the season as the number one guy and didn't look back. He missed nine games with a shoulder injury before returning Saturday night, and when he's been in the lineup, he's been on for 81.7 per cent of all of the Oilers power plays. His 18 power-play points are a career high and seven better than last season.
9. David Perron
In the first nine games of the season, Perron had only one power-play point while being on the ice for 48.5 per cent of all of St. Louis' power-play minutes. Then Vladimir Tarasenko went down with a shoulder injury in game 10, and Perron became a permanent fixture on the top unit, on the ice for 68.4 per cent of the Blues' power-play time since then (before Sunday night's action). Since Tank went down with an injury, Perron has picked up another 25 power-play points. Those 26 PPP is almost double the 14 he had last year and is eight points higher than his career high of 18 he had in 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights.
A few years ago, you could count on Matt Niskanen to pick up some power-play points, but that's hasn't been the case for a while. After all, he averaged 35 seconds and 31 seconds on the power play in each of the last two seasons. This year has been a different story, as he's been regularly used on the second power-play unit, and he's responded with 13 PPP. You would have expected zero going into this year. You draft Niskanen in banger leagues for the hits and blocked shots, and the power-play points are a tremendous bonus.
7. Neal Pionk
It's crazy to look back on it now, but Pionk's wasn't supposed to be the team's power-play producer. He wasn't even on the top unit at the start of the season. Instead, that honour went to Josh Morrissey. Morrissey had seven power-play points in the team's first 23 games, but Winnipeg was 24th in the league on the power play. In that time, Pionk had four power-play points, and fully took over on Nov. 27. Since then, he has 21 power-play points in 45 games, the highest total among defensemen and five points better than Boston's Torey Krug. More importantly, Winnipeg has the seventh-best power play since Pionk took over, so don't expect him to lose that spot anytime soon.
6. Ryan Strome
Strome came into this year with a career high of eight power-play points, but has broken through with 17 man-advantage points this season. That's remarkable, and while playing regularly with Artemi Panarin deserves a heap of credit, Strome has had the opportunity before. In 2016-17, he played on the top power-play unit in New York with John Tavares but wasn't able to produce much. Now he's a little bit wiser, a little more experience and is finally producing.
Back in early September, I wrote about the top 10 potential first-time 70-point players. I listed Konecny as a long-shot at number 10, as he was still unsigned, but I added that he needed to get more power-play time. Well, he signed, got the power-play time and has been excellent. His power-play ice time is almost double what it was a year ago and he's been on the top unit for the majority of the year. That's led to 23 PPP (his previous high was eight). For the curious, Elias Pettersson is the only other player on my top 10 list that is currently on pace for 70-plus points.
At a quick glance, Zibanejad's 27 power-play points seem to be in line with what he normally produces (he had 23 PPP last season and 20 the year before that). However, this year's man-advantage points have come in only 55 games, an average of almost one every two games. The only three players with a higher power-play points-per-game average are the three players who lead the league in PPP (Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak). Despite missing a month with an upper-body injury, Zibanejad was tied for eighth in PPP heading into Sunday's action, and no one would have predicted that back in September.
Draisaitl came into the season with a career-high 29 power-play points, and you might have hoped he could flirt with 40 if everything went well. Instead, everything's gone perfectly. He leads the league with 44 power-play points and is on pace for 52, which would be a crazy number to reach. The last players to notch 50 power-play points in a season was Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton back in 2006-07.
2. Bryan Rust
Rust didn't get into the lineup until Oct. 26, and didn't see much power-play time in his first nine games (he saw zero power-play time in six of those games). Then the Penguins players start getting injured, and Rust was called up to the top unit. He responded in a big way, and now has 17 power-play points. This after totalling five power-play points in his career before this year. He was productive enough that he continues to be on the top unit even with almost everyone healthy.
1. Quinn Hughes
While some may have been concerned that Hughes would have to fight off Alexander Edler and potentially Tyler Myers for power-play time at the start of the season, Hughes has been the main guy from day one. Going into Sunday's action, Hughes had already racked up 25 power-play points and was on pace for 31. Only 11 rookie defensemen have hit 30 power-play points, and Matt Carle, Nicklas Lidstrom and Dion Phaneuf are the only ones in the last 30 years. Of those three, Phaneuf has the most with 33. This is special territory for the Canucks rearguard, and even the most optimistic fantasy general manager couldn't have envisioned this.
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