2018-19 Fantasy Hockey: Top 10 power-play units
What power plays promise the most production this season? Here are the top 10 most likely.
When it comes to Fantasy, having a numerical edge makes a difference. In fact, during the 2017-18 regular season, just under 21 percent of all goals were scored while up a man. And that's a stat that can't be ignored. But what characteristics make for a successful power play?
Skills can only take a player as far as his teammates will allow. Those natural-born abilities won't mean much if no positive relationship is built within the group. That's not to say the top man-advantage units must be composed of five individuals who have skated together for years, but it doesn't hurt if chemistry is part of the equation.
Most of the usual frontrunners continued their excellence, but a few fell off the pace. A couple new contenders with new recruits are looking to make their mark, but what teams do from now until Opening Night may determine their place on – or off – this list.
Let's look at who qualifies for the Top 10:
NOTE: All stats are from last season unless noted otherwise.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2017/18 ranking: 3)
The Bolts earn the prime position due to the combined strength of both units – and we didn't even factor in the possibility of adding a superstar like Erik Karlsson. Nikita Kucherov led the club in power-play points (36), but a full-participant Steven Stamkos wasn't far behind (33). J.T. Miller combined for 18 PPPs last regular season, including six in only 19 games after arriving from Broadway. Brayden Point (11, with six more in the playoffs) rounds out the forward contingent on the first group, but others like Tyler Johnson (13), Yanni Gourde (13), Ondrej Palat (nine in only 56 contests), and Alex Killorn (nine) are ready to help. Victor Hedman (26) ranked fifth for NHL defensemen, while Mikhail Sergachev (16) impressed during his freshman year. Ryan McDonagh has notched 58 PPPs over the past five seasons (but managed none in 31 games after the trade), so he can fill in if necessary.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (2017/18 ranking: 2)
Supplementing the attack with John Tavares (30) will provide Toronto's primarily young core with added stability. Auston Matthews (13) will most likely join forces with the ex-Islander on the man-advantage to form a dynamic duo. Betcha didn't know Mitch Marner topped all Leafs in 2017-18 with 27 PPPs. William Nylander (12) should continue to develop, while Nazem Kadri (19, including a club-topping 12 goals) may take a hit. Patrick Marleau (nine) can still serve as a valuable power-play piece, while Connor Brown (three) and Andreas Johnsson (18 combined PPGs the last two AHL seasons) could move into larger roles. Back on the blueline, Morgan Rielly (25) take charge, with Jake Gardiner (15) assuming second chair. 2015 second-round pick Travis Dermott (31 points in 65 games over two levels) is poised to make the full-time jump to the big leagues after a Calder Cup-winning run.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (2017/18 ranking: 1)
Pittsburgh boasts the best starting five, although the other unit doesn't project the same strength as the preceding entries. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (both at 38) may be the alphas, but Phil Kessel managed to lead all NHLers with 42 PPPs. Patric Hornqvist (22, with 15 of those goals) provides net presence and quick hands. Jake Guentzel (12) has briefly experienced the top group, while Derick Brassard (six) is content to occupy a smaller role than earlier in his career. Depending on early results, one of Dominik Simon (nine PPGs over three AHL stints) or Daniel Sprong (11 PPGs in the minors last year alone) may earn more minutes. Kris Letang (20) has been hit hard by injuries, but he remains the focal point at the point. Justin Schultz (10) once surpassed Letang in the pecking order, but will most likely man the second group. Olli Maatta (eight) won't be asked to quarterback a power play like he did in junior, but he can provide sufficient offense.
4. Winnipeg Jets (2017/18 ranking: 5)
With an attack that showed glimpses of domination, it wouldn't surprise anyone if Winnipeg vaulted to the top of this list at any point during the upcoming season. The combo of size, speed, and skill makes Blake Wheeler (40) the perfect power forward. He may only be 20, but Patrik Laine (who netted a league-leading 20 PPGs) has already become one of the league's most feared snipers. Even after missing time, Mark Scheifele (16) returned to the lineup and proceeded as usual. Nikolaj Ehlers (13) and Kyle Connor (11) have already established themselves as reliable scorers. Mathieu Perreault (14) and Bryan Little (12) may not receive the most ice time, but they're still valuable performers. Jack Roslovic exceled in the AHL (83 points in 97 appearances) and should build upon that with the parent club. After all these years, Dustin Byfuglien (22) continues to rank as one of the premier Fantasy blueliners. Tyler Myers enjoyed a complete campaign (17), but may lose time to Jacob Trouba (three) if the latter can avoid injury.
5. Washington Capitals (2017/18 ranking: 7)
The defending champs head into 2018-19 with essentially an identical offensive lineup. No disrespect to Laine, but Alex Ovechkin (31, with 17 PPGs – three behind the Finn) remains the King of Left-Point One-Timers. Evgeny Kuznetsov (30) has overtaken Nicklas Backstrom as The Great Eight's caddy, although the Swede can still dish out the helpers (19 of his 50 assists while up a skater). T.J. Oshie's point totals may have slipped last regular season (47), but the special-teams stats improved (18 PPPs). 2014 first-round selection Jakub Vrana progressed during the postseason (eight points in 23 outings) and should become a regular contributor. Lars Eller (10 over both parts of the season) saw his power-play ice time increase, while Andre Burakovsky (four) experienced a decrease. Brett Connolly (five) uses his size and managed to pot a few pucks (four PPGs). Keeping John Carlson (32) was necessary to preserve a superstar D-man on the roster. Dmitry Orlov (four) showed maturity in the stretch drive, while Matt Niskanen (zero) received very little extracurricular activity but owns a resume of past achievement (50 PPPs during the previous four years).
6. Boston Bruins (2017/18 ranking: 4)
The proven producers have shown their strength; now it's time for the newer generation to step up and solidify both groupings. The combo of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron has been wreaking havoc the last two years (131 regular-season PPPs between the three). Veterans David Krejci (13) and David Backes (six) need to stay healthy to direct the second unit. Danton Heinen (12) and Jake DeBrusk (nine) led the Bruin rookie charge, while Ryan Donato quickly adapted to the pro game (nine points in 12 contests, including four PPPs) and will be given room to grow. Torey Krug (24) will always hear criticism due to his size, but his stats place him in the upper D echelon. Charlie McAvoy (seven) may one day join Krug among the league's best, but the coaches will not push the 20-year old too hard. And either Matt Grzelcyk or John Moore (both at two) will act as the third blueliner in Boston's 10-man setup.
7. Nashville Predators (2017/18 ranking: 13)
Like Washington, Nashville opted to stick to the status quo. Filip Forsberg (21) and Ryan Johansen (15) serve as the anchors up front, with Viktor Arvidsson (eight) ready to provide more ammunition. Craig Smith (14) can often be found with that trio on the top troop, but Kevin Fiala (13) will be waiting for his turn. Kyle Turris (21 combined with two teams) qualifies as one of the best pivots to run any NHL second unit. Colton Sissons (seven) finally broke through at the top level, but his supporting role looks to be in jeopardy with Eeli Tolvanen being anointed as the next star after an outstanding debut in the KHL (36 points in 49 games). Nashville has long been producing a steady wave of top-notch offensive defenders, and their current crop is no exception. P.K. Subban (25) acts as the perfect quarterback, with a keen eye and a lethal shot. Roman Josi (20) and Ryan Ellis (five in 44) also cover the point, with Mattias Ekholm (13) ready to fill in if required.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (2017/18 ranking: 15)
Renewing ties with James van Riemsdyk (20) transforms a pretty good attack into something that could be special. Claude Giroux (36) and Jakub Voracek (35) dominated the stat sheet, with Sean Couturier (14) perfectly complementing the talent mix. Wayne Simmonds (17, down from 25) probably would've performed better had he not played hurt all year. Both Nolan Patrick (eight) and Travis Konecny (three) proved they could hack it with the veterans. Oskar Lindblom (one in 23 appearances) has done enough in other leagues (81 points in 106 contests) to deserve a legitimate shot with the Flyers. After a down year, Shayne Gostisbehere proved he's still a star by leading all NHL defensemen in power-play points (33). Ivan Provorov (five) skates significant minutes, so his numbers will surely increase. Travis Sanheim provides another D option after a couple competent campaigns in the minors (53 points in just over a year) and a stellar junior career (back-to-back 60-plus point efforts).
9. Colorado Avalanche (2017/18 ranking: 8)
Another fresh-faced bunch with loads of talent, albeit behind most others in terms of combined experience. Nathan MacKinnon (32) finished oh-so-close to winning the Hart Trophy, yet it was Mikko Rantanen (35) who earned the Avs' man-advantage MVP. Gabriel Landeskog (17) rounded out the top-line trio, while rookie Alex Kerfoot surprised most by tying the captain for third-most PPPs among Colorado forwards. The under-25 contingent of Sven Andrighetto (nine), Tyson Jost (eight), and J.T. Compher (seven) can only improve with added responsibility, while veteran Colin Wilson (six) can continue to chip in as long as he can stay on the ice. Tyson Barrie (30) enjoyed a bounce-back season, while Samuel Girard (12 in 68) looked solid after arriving from Nashville. And assuming Erik Johnson (three) doesn't follow his standard pattern by succumbing to injury, he could produce at a passable Fantasy level.
10. St. Louis Blues (2017/18 ranking: 30)
The Blues may have finished last season one position above the basement in this category, but they are bound to improve thanks to a recent talent influx. Bringing in the likes of Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Patrick Maroon (the four amassed 58 PPPs) should boost their standing. Vladimir Tarasenko (16) is coming off April shoulder surgery, but should ready to go in October. Brayden Schenn led the club (19) and will be asked to maintain his excellence. Alexander Steen may have seen his stats dip the last few years (from 64 in 2014-15 to 46 last year), but he's thrived on special teams (14). Add in a healthy Jaden Schwartz (11 in 62 games) and a returning Robby Fabbri (missed all of 2017-18, nine PPPs the prior season) to the mix and you've got the potential for a top-5 showing. Alex Pietrangelo (13) and Colton Parayko (nine) remain the top defenders, but watch out for Vince Dunn (nine) to build upon a decent debut campaign.
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