East: Looking at the Power Play (2016)

by Eric Daoust on November 15, 2016

A closer look at the power plays of CBJ, TOR, MON, OTT, NYI and WAS.

The power play is one of the best sources for offense among the league’s more fantasy-relevant players. Not only do power plays put those players in advantageous offensive situations, they are also easy minutes to play which allows the league’s best players to be featured heavily. When players have career years they are generally aided by a potent power play.

Of course, each team’s power play will go through its ups and downs which can help fuel a hot streak or be the main cause of a disappointing stretch. With that said, we can look at teams starting the year red-hot and predict a future decline while teams starting unusually cold should get better over time. This can help us discover potential buy-low and sell-high opportunities.

Today we will examine six teams in the Eastern Conference – three with unexpectedly strong power plays to start and three that have been big disappointments thus far. On each team there will be players that will most likely not continue at their current pace which in turn will affect their overall point production in the coming months.

POWERFUL

Columbus (33.3%)

The Blue Jackets’ power play has been incredible thus far led by top-heavy production with the top unit finding great chemistry. Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Nick Foligno, Zach Werenski and Sam Gagner have combined for 33 power-play points. Not surprisingly, all five are grossly exceeding preseason expectations and are providing some of the best value relative to their draft position.

All five are going to see their production suffer at some point as the hot streak plays out but the one most in danger fantasy-wise is Gagner. An afterthought outside of deep leagues, he has been a good depth producer thus far with eight points – four of them coming on the power play – through 12 games. An eventual slow-down could put Gagner in a slump which could push him down the depth chart in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the second unit has not been a factor with Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner and Scott Hartnell getting a point each. This has played a role in Dubinsky and Jenner starting the year cold as both were in double-digits in power-play points last year. This unit is due for a few goals which will help this trio along with Brandon Saad and Seth Jones.

Toronto (23.8%)

The Leafs have benefited from more balanced scoring on the power play led by rookie William Nylander’s seven points. Even with a talented roster, such a young group will have trouble keeping up its sixth-best ranking all year. Nylander will be affected the most by a reduction in efficiency while the rest of the group will be less affected due to their balanced ice time and point totals.

If the hot streak continues look for Tyler Bozak (two points) and Leo Komarov (one point) to perhaps cash in with a couple extra points. Both have been deployed frequently but have not produced like many of their teammates up front.

The situation on defense is far more interesting. Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Carrick have been the most frequently-deployed blueliners. However, their most talented defender is Morgan Rielly who has finally been used more often the last two games. He already has 10 points in 15 games due in part to a four-point effort against Philadelphia. If he can regain his spot as the top defenseman on the power play his upside is tremendous. It would not be a stretch to think of him pushing the 50-point mark this year. However, if he is held back some more then he will be much more limited and prone to slumps. Meanwhile, as long as they keep their roles on the power play, Zaitsev and Gardiner are worth owning in most leagues.

Montreal (22.9%)

The Canadiens’ power play is much more effective this year as newcomer Shea Weber has fit in admirably. The 31-year-old defender already has seven points with the man advantage with six of them being goals. While his odds of eclipsing 20 goals for the fourth time are very good at this point, his current pace is not sustainable. In points-only leagues he is a great sell-high candidate.

The other defender of interest is Andrei Markov who has been paired with Weber for the most part on the top unit. With his overall ice time being scaled back a bit, he will be relying more heavily on the improved power play for production. As such, expect stretches of highs and lows from Markov. As with Weber, look for Markov’s production to drop off a bit in the coming months.

Up front, the production is fairly balanced although the group as a whole has not been spectacular. In fact, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty lead all forwards in ice time and only have one point apiece. This should correct itself over time. Pacioretty especially is a buy-low candidate as he has seen a couple demotions in the lineup which might make his owner nervous.

POWERLESS

Ottawa (9.3%)

The Sens currently rank 30th in efficiency but possess too much talent to stay here for long. The top unit of Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Derick Brassard and Mark Stone has underwhelmed with a combined nine points. Among this group only Karlsson has performed up to expectations while the lack of power-play production has the rest look rather disappointing. Look for this to change in the coming weeks as the top unit is capable of much better.

On the second unit Kyle Turris is the most noteworthy player. He is being flanked by Ryan Dzingel and Zack Smith who have had good moments but as clearly downgrades from the team’s better wingers. Being on the second line limits Turris’ upside as he will get fewer points in this situation unless he can work himself back up with the bigger guns. Recall when he achieved 64 points two years ago he had 17 power-play points.

On defense, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci have seen the most time on the second unit. Of the two, only Phaneuf has picked up a point which has played a role in both posting fewer points than expected thus far. An improvement in this area will help pad their points and put them more in line to match their numbers from last year.

New York Islanders (11.4%)

The Islanders have been a mess thus far with many talented players underachieving. The power play has not been very good either with John Tavares and Brock Nelson being the only players with more than one point on the man advantage. There are some buy-low candidates in the mix but those will be limited to players on the top unit sharing the ice with Tavares. So far Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd and Ryan Strome have gotten the most looks in that role and are due to have their point totals padded by a couple power-play points.

On defense, Nick Leddy has been deployed on the top line and is due for a couple extra points once things get back on track. Johnny Boychuk has had a good start and earned a spot on the second line although expecting more offense from him is a stretch. His partner might eventually be Ryan Pulock who was projected to be a top rookie this year but failed to make the opening-night roster and is now out with a lower-body injury.

Washington (12.5%)

It is stunning to see the Capitals ranked 24th in the league given some of the names on their team. While the top unit has not been spectacular they have still been able to produce some offense. They will see small upticks in production although John Carlson is capable of much better than the single power-play point he has accumulated to date.

The problem lies with the non-existent second unit which includes the likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams up front. Not surprisingly, all three have underwhelmed this year. The most concerning case is Kuznetsov who broke out last year as one of the league’s best offensive weapons. A total of 20 of his 77 points came on the power play while spending considerable time with Alexander Ovechkin. This year on his own line Kuznetsov has been blanked which is at the root of his mediocre start.

One player to watch is Dmitry Orlov who has had a below-average start. Not only is he seeing more ice time overall, he is finally playing a constant role on the power play. He has not had any results yet due to the team being cold in this area which puts him under the radar in most leagues. Once things get back on track do not be surprised if he eventually makes his way back up to the 30-point range he was in last year.

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