Down The Stretch: Random PP Observations
With roughly nine games to go in the NHL regular season, we take a look at who's making waves on the power play for various teams.
Ryan Callahan, RW, TAM: Since being traded by the Rangers to the Lightning at the trade deadline almost four weeks ago, Callahan has been a major contributor for the Bolts with eight points (4G, 4A) in 11 games over that stretch, including three points on the power play. In fact, Callahan's PP minutes are now in the range of 4-4:30 minutes per night, a healthy increase over his season average of 1:48 since he wasn't seeing any significant minutes with the Rangers prior to the trade. Now, however, he's lining up on the first unit alongside Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman. Meanwhile, with Martin St. Louis struggling to find any kind of chemistry with his new Rangers teammates (three points in 13 games), the Bolts are looking like the hands-down winners as far as this trade is concerned.
Andrei Loktionov, C, CAR: Lokitonov, who was dealt by the Devils to the Hurricanes at the trade deadline, is another example of a guy who is having success with his new team. True, he got off to a slow start following the trade with zero points in his first six games; however, he now has five points in his last five contests, including two points on the power play. Lokitonov was not previously being used by the Devils in man-advantage situations, but is now averaging roughly three minutes per night on the Canes' first PP unit alongside Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. This obviously boosts his fantasy value significantly, making him a prime late-season pickup candidate in medium to deeper leagues.
Gustav Nyquist, C, DET: Getting into the playoffs without the likes of Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup is no easy task, but that's the exactly the situation the Red Wings now find themselves in, with just nine games to play. One of the major reasons the Wings are even still in the hunt has been the play of Nyquist, who has 15 points in his last 11 games, including three PP goals and a helper. Nyquist is part of the Wings' revamped top PP unit, which also includes Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall. NOTE: One reason behind his recent scoring surge could be Nyquist's tendency to shoot the puck more. Over his last 11 games, he's averaging almost four shots per game, compared to roughly 2:30 shots per game in January and February, and four shots per game is pretty comparable to the league leaders in that category - guys like Alexander Ovechkin, James Neal and Phil Kessel.
Sami Vatanen, D, ANA: With Cam Fowler currently on the shelf with a left MCL sprain, the Ducks recently recalled Vatanen from AHL Norfolk, where he was assigned following the Olympics in February. To his credit, Vatanen has responded well with four assists (one on the PP) in the three games since his recall. In his last game (Mar. 28 @ EDM), Vatanen saw major ice time - 26:55 total and 3:56 on the power play. [NOTE: Vatanen is a great short term play right now, but be cautious of investing too much fantasy capital in him as far as keeper leagues go. Yes, he has elite offensive skills, but his smallish size and shaky defensive play may yet prove to be obstacles for him to excel as an everyday NHL player. There is a long list of offensive d-men who have scored a ton of points in the minors but still have not broken through at the NHL level (e.g., Ryan Ellis, Stefan Elliott), because they lack the size, physical edge or strong defensive play. Vatanen might be one of those guys, as he is currently behind Hampus Lindholm on the Ducks' depth chart despite being two years older.]
Jussi Jokinen, LW, PIT: With PP stud Evgeni Malkin expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks with a foot injury, Jokinen has been added to the Pens' top unit alongside Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen. In his last two games alone, Jokinen's PP ice time was 5:20 and 7:03, respectively, compared to his season average of just over two minutes per game. Jokinen only has two PP points in his last dozen games, however he does have 19 for the season to date, meaning he's more than capable of producing more, especially now that he's spending more time per game skating with the team's best players.
Brandon Pirri, C, FLA: Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Panthers' Jimmy Hayes, one of the team's young guys who was getting a chance to showcase their abilities late in the season. Well, another name you can add to that list is Pirri, who was acquired earlier this month from Chicago for a couple of draft picks. Pirri typically plays on the third line with Jesse Winchester and Quinton Howden, but has been making the most of his limited ice time with seven points in 13 games since his arrival, including a goal and two helpers with the man advantage. Pirri led the AHL last season with 75 points in 76 games, which kind of makes you wonder why the 'Hawks decided to give up on the guy. Either way, he makes for a good late-season waiver wire candidate, and even better long term hold in keeper leagues.