Mid-Season PP Surprises
Now that we are roughly at the half-way mark of the season, it's time to look at some of the NHL's biggest surprise power play performers for the year to date.
In Calgary, life after Jarome Iginla has not been kind to the sad-sack Flames thus far, who come out of the Christmas break mired in second-last place in the Western Conference. As far as their power play is concerned, the team has not fared much better in that department with a dismal 14.6% efficiency rate, good for 26th overall in the league. That said, don't even think about blaming any of these deficiencies on blueliner Mark Giordano, who despite missing 18 games with a broken ankle still has 17 points in 20 games, including four goals and six assists on the power play. We're talking elite-defender-type production here, folks, and that's with a pretty weak supporting cast. Furthermore, he's currently ahead of guys like Ryan Suter, Alex Pietrangelo, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty, most of whom have played a full slate of games thus far. Giordano is currently averaging 25:06 in ice time and 3:39 on the PP, both career-bests for the 30-year-old defenseman. Run - don't walk - to pick up this guy in your league if he's still available. Given he's owned in just 47% of all Yahoo! leagues right now, he just might be.
Another blueliner currently opening eyes this season is the Devils' Eric Gelinas, a rookie defender who has 15 points in 30 games thus far, with nine of those (3G, 6A) coming on the power play. It was originally thought that Gelinas would spend the majority of the season at AHL Albany, however he was recalled in late October to fill in for Bryce Salvador who was absent due to a family matter. Gelinas scored a power-play goal in his first game (10/24 vs. VAN) and has not looked back, having played in every game since then. He routinely plays over 20 minutes per night, and although he sees second-line PP duty, (2:14 per game), he has made the most of his chances. With veteran defenders Marek Zidlicky and Andy Greene still ahead of him in the Devils' blue line pecking order, Gelinas is not a first-ballot fantasy selection just yet, but his time is quickly approaching.
Not far away in Manhattan, Chris Kreider has been an absolute revelation for the Rangers this season. First of all, at +9, he's the only guy on the entire roster who has a plus-minus rating above zero. That aside, he's currently playing on the Blueshirts' top line alongside Brad Richards and Rick Nash, both at even strength and with the man advantage. With 21 points in 32 games, he's currently on pace for a 50-point season - not bad for a rookie. Seven of his points have come on the power play, where he averages 2:44 of ice time per game. Considering his supporting cast, he is well worth owning in medium to deeper fantasy formats.
Two seasons ago, Valtteri Filppula scored a career-high 11 power play points (3G, 8A) in 81 games while playing for the Red Wings. This season, his first with Tampa Bay, he has tied that mark (4G, 7A) in just 37 games. Filppula is currently centering the Bolts' second line most nights, skating between Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell. However, with Steven Stamkos still on the shelf with a broken leg, Filppula regularly sees first line PP duty alongside Martin St. Louis with whom he has formed a strong chemistry. It's worth noting that Filppula could be demoted back to the second line once Stamkos returns in February, however, until then he remains a strong fantasy play given his current stats and healthy minutes (19:49 average TOI, 3:07 with the PP).
In Washington, Marcus Johansson had never scored more than eight PP points in a single campaign coming into this season, however he currently has 14 (4G, 10A) in 38 games. Last season, his PP ice time was just 1:53 on average, however this year he has been promoted to the Caps' top line alongside Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and has seen his PP minutes spike accordingly. He's up to 3:08 on the season, but in his last two games his PP ice time was 4:56 and 5:03, respectively. Given that Backstrom and Ovi are currently 1-2 in the league in PP scoring, anyone who rides shotgun with them is worth a look.
In Toronto - quick, hands up if you know who currently leads the Maple Leafs in PP scoring. Phil Kessel? Joffrey Lupul? James van Riemsdyk? Nope, nope and nope. The answer is none other than defenseman Cody Franson, who has a goal and 12 assists in 38 games, tying his career-high of 13 points from last season. He continues to be one of coach Randy Carlyle's top PP weapons, skating regularly on the first unit along with Dion Phaneuf and the aforementioned trio of forwards. In addition, Franson currently ranks second among all NHL skaters in hits (tops among defensemen) with 138, making him even more valuable in those leagues that count that stat. Two years after the Leafs acquired an underperforming Franson from the Predators along with Matthew Lombardi in exchange for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney, is there any doubt who got the better end of that deal?
Happy Holidays everyone!