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The Man Advantage: Top 10 PP Surprises

Mark McLarney

Mark McLarney writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

With the NHL on a five-day hiatus for its annual All-Star break, what better time to take a moment and reflect on the biggest power-play surprises of the season thus far? Some of the names below may surprise you. From a fantasy perspective, having any of these guys on your roster has probably helped you in those leagues that reward extra points for PP goals and assists.

Top 10 Surprises

Name Team POS PPP On pace for PPP last year DIFF
James Wisniewski MON D 21 38 9 +29
Cam Fowler ANA D 14 25 0 +25
Kris Letang PIT D 18 30 5 +25
Andrew MacDonald NYI D 10 24 0 +24
Nicklas Lidstrom DET D 26 44 20 +24
Teddy Purcell TAM RW 15 25 3 +22
Kevin Shattenkirk COL D 10 22 0 +22
Jack Johnson LOS D 21 34 13 +21
Jeffrey Skinner CAR C 13 21 0 +21
Andrew Ladd ATL LW 13 21 1 +20

Wisniewski: He’s spent the whole season filling in for big-name PP defensemen with two different teams – and proving he’s more than a suitable replacement. After being unable to come to terms on a new contract with the Ducks in the offseason, Wisniewski was traded to the Islanders and immediately promoted to the top PP unit with Mark Streit opening the season on IR. Wisniewski scored 21 points in the first 32 games - 13 of which came on the PP - but the Islanders still decided to deal him to the Canadiens in December. Upon his arrival in Montreal, he was once again promoted to the first PP line to replace Andrei Markov, who is done for the year with an ACL tear. Since then Wisniewski has recorded 12 points in 13 games, eight of which came with the extra man. He also leads the Habs in average PP ice time per game at 5:04. At his current pace, Wisniewski could finish with a whopping 30 more PP points than he had last year. He is a strong fantasy option on just about any squad.

Fowler: Was long considered one of the most NHL-ready players in this year’s Entry Draft, and with 26 points in 46 games – 14 on the PP – he is proving why. Fowler made the Ducks’ roster straight out of training camp after being chosen 12th in the draft. Only two of Fowler’s teammates – Lubomir Visnovsky and Corey Perry – have seen more PP ice time than he has this season. With the loss of Scott Niedermayer to retirement, Fowler has done a great job filling in on the Ducks’ blueline, forming a formidable 1-2 punch on the back end with Visnovsky. With good skating and puck-handling abilities, as well as excellent instincts and all-around hockey sense, Fowler has all the tools necessary to become an elite NHL defenseman in another 1-2 seasons. He should be quickly moving up your cheat sheet for next season.

Letang: As the old saying goes, what a difference a year makes. Last season, with veteran PP quarterback Sergei Gonchar in the fold, Letang played mostly second-line PP duty for the Pens, posting an average nightly PP time of 2:49 (good for seventh on the team) and picking up just five helpers. With Gonchar now plying his trade in Ottawa, Letang has the Pens’ PP QB duties all to himself, and boy, is he making the most of the opportunity. He is fourth on the team in average PP time with 4:17 and is on pace for a 30 PP-point, 70 total-point season. Oh, and by the way, while it doesn’t hurt one’s totals to skate with Sidney Crosby every night, keep in mind that Letang has also recorded five PP points (1G, 4A) so far in the nine games Sid has been out, proving he is doing more than just riding Sid’s coattails. If current trends continue, Letang is a lock to be a top-five fantasy defenseman next season.

MacDonald: At the start of this year, it was expected that MacDonald would begin the season in AHL Bridgeport and be called upon only when injuries arose, especially with James Wisniewski starting the season as the team’s no. 1 PP defenseman. However, after a strong training camp, MacDonald grabbed himself a roster spot and opened the season as an Islander, spending time with Wisniewski on the team’s top PP unit. Though he began the season on a high note, MacDonald only played in seven games before breaking his hand and spending the entire month of November on IR. Upon his return, MacDonald picked up right where he left off and eventually became the team’s top PP blueliner after Wisniewski was trade. MacDonald only has 10 PP helpers to his name this season, but he continues to log premier PP minutes each night alongside John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Pierre Parenteau and Matt Moulson. He is definitely worthy of a pick-up for those of you in deeper fantasy leagues.

Lidstrom: It has been a renaissance season for Lidstrom, whose offensive abilities appeared to be on the decline the last few years. Lidstrom totaled 79, 59 and 49 points the past three campaigns; and last season, his PPP total slipped to just 20 (5G, 15A). As a result, it was perhaps no surprise that Lidstrom came into this season down a few slots on fantasy draft lists (admit it – even yours, right?). Well, not so fast – with 42 points in 49 games, Lidstrom is flirting with a point-per-game pace and could very well end up with an 80-point season, something he has only done once in his career (2005-06). On the PP, Lidstrom has just three helpers since the start of January, but overall is on pace for 24 more PP points than he recorded last season. And, with Pavel Datsyuk set to return after the All-Star break from a broken hand, Lidstrom’s supporting cast is about to get even better. Lidstrom is still the Wings’ undisputed leader in terms of PP ice time, averaging 4:12 per game, good for 10th among all NHL defensemen.

Purcell: If you look at his pre-NHL history, it’s obvious Purcell has long had the ability to score – especially on the power play. But as a pro, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to show what he could do until this season. As an example, Purcell made quite an impact in 2006-07 as a rookie at the University of Maine, where he led the Black Bears in rookie scoring and was particularly dangerous on the PP - 20 of his 43 total points (6G, 14A) coming on the man advantage. Fast forward to 2009-10. Following a trade from Los Angeles to Tampa, Purcell scored nine points in 19 games for the Bolts, but he was limited to just four points (2G, 2A) on the PP, playing a secondary role behind the likes of St. Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier, Downie, Malone and Tanguay. This year, with the absence of Tanguay and injuries to the likes of Lecavalier, Downie and Gagne earlier in the season, an opportunity opened up for Purcell to see plenty of first-line PP duty alongside Stamkos and St. Louis. Playing with those two, the results were obvious. Purcell has dropped back into a secondary role since Lecavalier and Downie returned, but he did go into the All-Star break on a hot streak with five points in his last two games, two of those coming on the PP.

Shattenkirk: One of the most highly anticipated defensive prospects the Avalanche organization has ever produced. He was a star at Boston University from 2007-2010, scoring 78 points (18G, 60A) in 121 games before turning pro last year. He started this season at AHL Lake Erie but was recalled in November to help fill in for Adam Foote and Kyle Quincey, who were both out with injuries. He didn’t take long to make his presence felt, scoring 19 points (5G, 12A) in his first 21 games, including eight points on the PP. Shattenkirk went into the All-Star break ranked fourth on the Avs in average PP time, with 3:07 per game, and remains a fixture on the team’s top unit alongside Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny and John-Michael Liles. With a mix of pure, raw offensive talent along with a stellar supporting cast, it won’t take long for Shattenkirk to ascend to elite fantasy blueliner status. Get in on the ground floor while he’s still relatively cheap.

Johnson: J.J. played in Drew Doughty’s shadow last season and came into the current campaign well behind Doughty in terms of expectations. However, to date, Johnson is modestly ahead of Doughty in total points (33 vs. 26), and well ahead in PP points (21 vs. 8). The Kings recognized Johnson’s contributions and potential, signing him to a seven-year, $30.5 million contract extension earlier this month that will run through the 2017-18 season. Although he’s not the smoothest skater around, J.J. has the size (6’1”, 220lbs), stick handling ability, passing skills, and booming slapshot necessary to make him a serious threat to hit the 50-point plateau this year and beyond. With a solid supporting cast that includes Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, Johnson should be a fantasy force for years to come.

Skinner: With 40 points in 50 games, Skinner is clearly the current runaway favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Skinner’s average of 3:03 PP minutes per game ranks seventh on the team in that category, but heading into the All-Star break, he was seeing a fair amount of time on the top unit alongside Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu. Skinner’s 13 PPPs this season are not elite; but for a rookie, that ain’t too shabby. He has a great base to build on for future seasons and should not be forgotten on draft day next October.

Ladd: Ladd was not an offensive force for the Blackhawks last year; but after acquiring him in the offseason, the Thrashers expected Ladd to provide more offense than he did with Chicago. Now a first-line player who regularly sees more than 20 minutes of ice time per night, Ladd is also seeing an average of 3:07 in PP minutes per game, well above the 0:36 he saw with the ‘Hawks last year behind the likes of Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa. Ladd is also benefiting from having two of the league’s best PP defensemen – Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom – feeding him the puck every night. At his current pace, Ladd should easily eclipse the career-high 49 points he scored two seasons ago in Chicago. He should also set a new personal best in the PPP category this season, finishing somewhere in the 20-25 point range.

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