Defensemen who rack up a ton of points on the power play - or have the potential to do so based on their PP ice time - are fantasy gold. This week, we look at a few "off the radar" guys who have suddenly found themselves manning the point for their respective PP squads.
Corey Potter, EDM: At 27 years old, Potter is a career minor-leaguer who came into this season with a grand total of nine NHL games under his belt with two different teams (Rangers and Penguins). Furthermore, he's never been known for his offensive ability, with a career-high of just 37 points (7G, 30A) in 75 games coming last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. However, Potter found himself presented with a golden opportunity this season - his first with Edmonton - to man the Oilers' power play with Ryan Whitney on the shelf with a bad ankle. Now feeding the puck to the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Potter is in the top 10 in PP scoring among defensemen with six points (1G, 5A) in nine games. He's also averaging almost four minutes a game in extra-man ice time, which puts him fourth on the team in that category. As long as he continues to be this productive, look for the Oilers to keep him around, even when Whitney finally returns to the lineup.
Jay Garrison, FLA: Like the aforementioned Potter, Garrison is another 27-year-old late bloomer who played in just 39 games last season with the Panthers. During the offseason, the team cleaned house and created a void on the blue line where Garrison was more than happy to step in. Gone are the likes of Bryan McCabe, Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold, leaving Garrison as one of the only defensemen with any semblance of offensive skill. In terms of ice time, the team's top two PP defensemen are Brian Campbell (5:05) and Dmitry Kulikov (4:23), but not far behind is Garrison, averaging about 2:30 but seeing more in the area of 3:00-3:30 in recent games. More importantly, however, he's currently tied with Kris Versteeg for the team lead in PP goals scored with three. Coach Kevin Dineen is likely to continue using Garrison and his heavy shot on the point in PP situations. "He's got the big driver," Dineen said recently. "It's a hokey way to explain it, but it just seems his teammates realize he's cracking the thing pretty good right now, and they're putting it in his wheelhouse and he's doing what he does best, which is hitting the puck hard."
Alexander Edler, VAN: True, Edler did average more than five minutes of PP time for the Canucks last year. However, with Christian Ehrhoff now manning the blue line in Buffalo, Edler has taken on an even bigger role with the Canucks this season. He and Sami Salo comprise the back end of the Canucks' PP attack these days, and the duo has contributed significantly. With 13 PP goals scored to date, the Canucks are currently tied with Ottawa for the league lead in that category, with Edler and Salo accounting for three of those goals along with eight combined assists. Despite scoring 33 points in 2010-11, we only caught a glimpse of what Edler could accomplish as a back injury limited him to just 51 games. So far this season, Edler is 100% healthy (touch wood) and is on a point-per-game pace after 12 contests, so he could finally be living up to his full potential. Edler likes to shoot the puck a ton and averages about three shots per game, which is right up there with the likes of Teemu Selanne and teammate Daniel Sedin.
Jared Spurgeon, MIN: Anyone familiar with Spurgeon's history in the minors knows that he ran the power play for the Memorial Cup-winning Spokane Chiefs back in 2007-08, scoring 43 points in 69 games and adding another five helpers during the playoffs. However, as a fresh-faced rookie for the Wild last season, there was no way he was going to see a spot on the team's top PP unit, especially with veterans Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns patrolling the blue line on a nightly basis. What he did do, however, was show enough promise to earn himself a spot on the team's second unit, tallying six points (2G, 4A) and averaging about 1:30 per game. This season, with Burns playing his trade in San Jose, Spurgeon now finds himself alongside Zidlicky on the team's top unit averaging roughly two minutes more per night compared to last year. Spurgeon hasn't lit up the scoresheet thus far with just one PP goal and a helper in 11 games, but coach Todd Richards continues to throw him out there in important situations, giving him some very decent fantasy upside.
Yannick Weber, MON: Weber actually started the season as a fourth-line forward for the Habs, but was soon moved back to a regular spot on the blue line with injuries to Andrei Markov (knee), Chris Campoli (hamstring) and Jaroslav Spacek (ribs). Last season, Weber averaged just under two minutes per game in PP ice time, behind the likes of P.K. Subban, James Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik. This year, given the Habs injury situation, along with Wisniewski and Hamrlik playing in Columbus and Washington respectively, Weber is now playing higher up in the batting order. His 3:31 average PP ice time is good for fourth on the team, and he leads the Habs in PP scoring with a pair of goals plus a helper. Weber could be a good fantasy fill-in on some squads until the Habs get some of their walking wounded back, especially Markov who remains out indefinitely.