Frozen Tools Forensics: Power-Play Opportunities

chriskane

2020-06-19

Given we have been without NHL action for some time now, and it isn't entirely clear when we will have games to reference again, it seems appropriate to take a look at a few of our more hidden stats and reports. This week I wanted to dive into power plays a bit. Not necessarily the formations, or even too much into the players that excel on the power play. Just that I really wanted to get to opportunities.

Of course, with this topic like so many others I wanted to start with Big Board. When exported and organized we get a great summary of the top scorers in the league. In this view we are looking at it sorted by power-play points.

NameAgeTeamPosSOGGPGAPTSPPP
LEON DRAISAITL24EDMC21871436711044
CONNOR MCDAVID23EDMC2126434639743
DAVID PASTRNAK23BOSR2797048479538
NATHAN MACKINNON24COLC3186935589331
JONATHAN HUBERDEAU26FLAL1526923557829
BRAD MARCHAND31BOSL1857028598728
TOREY KRUG29BOSD144619404928
MIKA ZIBANEJAD27NYRC2085741347527
JACK EICHEL23BUFC2276836427827
DAVID PERRON31STLL1667125356027
JOHN CARLSON30WSHD1896915607526
AUSTON MATTHEWS22TORC2907047338025
NIKITA KUCHEROV26T.BR2106833528525
J.T. MILLER27VANC1656927457225
QUINN HUGHES20VAND126688455325
NEAL PIONK24WPGD177716394525
ARTEMI PANARIN28NYRL2096932639524
ELIAS PETTERSSON21VANC1626827396624
EVGENI MALKIN33PITC1715525497424
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS27EDMC1726522396124

There is a lot here we already know. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid feasted on the power play and that Boston unit was lethal. I wanted to pause for a moment though and draw our attention to one additional feature – the team each individual is playing for.

If we sort by team, we can look at the number of players each team has in the top 20.

Team# of Top 20 Players
EDM3
BOS3
VAN3
NYR2
COL1
FLA1
BUF1
STL1
WSH1
TOR1
T.B1
WPG1
PIT1

There are a couple of surprises here. I mean we understand Edmonton and Boston (see comment above) but Vancouver? The Rangers? What do they have that Toronto doesn’t?

There are a ton of factors that go into a player's ranking here (player skill, time on the first unit, luck, etc.), but one thing we don't talk a lot about is team opportunities. We have to assume that a team who gets a lot of power-play chances is much more likely to have players who are putting up higher power-play numbers. Just look at the chart below – look at the difference in total time.

RankTeamGPOpponent Penalty Minutes
1Boston70736
2New York70717
3Colorado70703
4Tampa Bay70690
5San Jose70661
27Dallas69510
28Montreal71474
29Buffalo69473
30Toronto70472
31Columbus70465

This table shows the teams with the top opponent penalty minutes and the worst. The top five average 701 total penalty minutes from their opponents and the bottom five averaged 479. That is a huge difference. We are talking 232 minutes of power-play opportunity here. Maybe this can help us answer our question. The Rangers rank second in power-play minute opportunities, but Toronto ranks 30th with a difference of 245 potential minutes.

So the big question is: Do teams that have more potential minutes on the power-play have more players in the top 20? I think the answer is a resounding …maybe?

Team# of Top 20 PlayersRank in PP Minutes
EDM321
BOS31
VAN37
NYR22
COL13
FLA115
BUF129
STL123
WSH18
TOR130
T.B14
WPG112
PIT120

Only five teams have more than one player in the top 20. Four of them are in the top ten for total minutes, so that correlation seems pretty strong. Edmonton is the lone exception, ranked 21st. They might just be an exception to the rule here, though, as McDavid and Draisaitl were just so good this year. The rest of the teams have only one player, and in many cases, it is a player of prodigious skill that is clearly making up for a deficit in team opportunity.

The two other oddballs are Colorado and Tampa. Colorado ranks very highly in total time, but only Nathan MacKinnon ranks in the top 20. One potential explanation here is that Colorado dealt with some major injuries so guys like Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen who might otherwise be on this list played fewer games. That leaves Tampa as an odd man out, they have a ton of star power, and a lot of opportunity, but still didn't manage more than one player on the list.

It is clearly not a direct correlation between team totals and player point totals, and some of those reasons have been pointed out already. We have the efficiency of a power-play to consider, how the units are given time, injuries, etc. But I don't think we can escape the fact that some teams end up with a lot more opportunity than others. I mean, Columbus' top power-play producer is ranked 101st in power-play points (combination of low opportunity and poor power-play?)

So that brings us to the question of how do teams end up on the power-play? Well at some point an opposing player needs to do something illegal. A team system might be one answer for encouraging opponents to do so, but an individual players' style and skill is definitely another. We have some evidence that drawing penalties is a repeatable skill for skaters, and wouldn't you know it, Frozen Tools has a report for that. It is called Drawn Penalties. The table below shows the top 10 for 2019-20.

NameTeamGPShiftsPenalties Drawn
BRADY TKACHUKOTT71177547
BRAD MARCHANDBOS70156844
GARNET HATHAWAYWSH6696735
JACK EICHELBUF68159635
ANTHONY CIRELLIT.B68159934
MATTHEW TKACHUKCGY69149934
BRENDAN LEMIEUXNYR59102332
ELIAS PETTERSSONVAN68158531
TOM WILSONWSH68151430
NIKOLAJ EHLERSWPG71151930

It is an interesting mix of skill players and agitators.

We can also sort by number of shifts per penalty (or put another way, how many shifts does a player need to take in order to draw a penalty) – here is that top ten (with minimum game number of 30).

NameTeamGPShiftsPenalties DrawnShifts / Penalties Drawn
GARNET HATHAWAYWSH669673527.6
ROSS JOHNSTONNYI323621230.2
BRENDAN LEMIEUXNYR5910233232
BRAD MARCHANDBOS7015684435.6
BRADY TKACHUKOTT7117754737.8
MILES WOODN.J6811693039
NAZEM KADRICOL5110412443.4
MATTHEW TKACHUKCGY6914993444.1
TYSON JOSTCOL6710892445.4
JACK EICHELBUF6815963545.6

Here we definitely have a few skill players, but most of this list have a bit of edge to their game.

So how does all of his impact their fantasy value? Well at the end of the day most leagues don't count penalties drawn as a stat, so the direct impact is not high. A player's ability to draw penalties can definitely have an impact on their team's total power-play time, though, and that can have an impact on scorers who rely on power-play production.

At the end of the day there isn't much you can do, but it is certainly something to consider around trade/free agent deadline days as players are moving between teams. If you are holding a bunch of power-play guys on a team that just shipped off its two best penalty drawers, that might be good to know. Does it mean those guys will suddenly tank? Not necessarily, but as I often say in this column, opportunity is everything.

That is all for this week. Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.

Want more tool talk? Check out these recent Frozen Tool Forensics Posts.

Frozen Tools Forensics: Useful features on our Frozen Tools

Frozen Tools Forensics: Playoffs Part II – Unlikely Heroes

Frozen Tools Forensics: The Plan to Play

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VGK Players
21.8% WILLIAM KARLSSON CHANDLER STEPHENSON MARK STONE
16.2% JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT REILLY SMITH PAUL STASTNY
15.6% WILLIAM CARRIER TOMAS NOSEK RYAN REAVES

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