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The Man Advantage: Hidden PP Gems

Mark McLarney

Mark McLarney writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Hidden PP Gems

This week we take a look at several fantasy NHL'ers who are showing strong PP production but may be “off-radar” as far as your fellow fantasy owners are concerned. Consider giving these guys a flyer if they are available in your league.

With a 9-2-0 record so far in January, the Columbus Blue Jackets are no doubt one of the hottest teams in the NHL, vaulting themselves into third place in the Metropolitan Division and back into playoff relevance in the Western Conference. This recent surge is due in no small part to the play of defensemen James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson, who each have five PP points over their past six games. Wisnewski, who just recently set a new career-high in points with 31 in just 44 games, is averaging roughly 4˝ minutes on the PP over the past two weeks, a full minute above his season average. Johnson, meanwhile, is underperforming this year with just 18 points in 51 games, but his ice time is up these days, seeing almost a full two minutes more on the PP (4:21) than he's been averaging for the season to date (2:42). Both guys make for excellent waiver wire pickups right now if they are still available in your leagues - and according to Yahoo!, they just might be, with Wisniewski and Johnson still unowned in 28% and 45%, respectively, of all active leagues.

In Philadelphia, Scott Hartnell got off to a painfully slow start this season but has rebounded strongly in recent weeks. If you recall, Hartnell had zero points in his first five games back in October, missed the next four games with a lower body injury, then returned and went on another four-game pointless streak. Many impatient fantasy owners no doubt started dumping him in droves at that point, but the patient ones who stuck with him have since been rewarded with 30 points in his last 40 games, including 13 points on the power play. In his last nine games alone, Hartnell has five PP points (2G, 3A), which gives him an excellent shot at topping his career high of 23 PP points scored two seasons ago. He's only owned in 56% of Yahoo! leagues as of today, so don't be afraid to snap him up if he's available in your league.

With a 22.4% success rate - including a ludicrous 28.0% at home - the Maple Leafs are currently tied with the Chicago Blackhawks as the third-best power-play team in the NHL. One guy who is not getting that much attention is Tyler Bozak, who has missed large chunks of the season with assorted hamstring and upper-body injuries. However, he has now played 14 consecutive games since the end of December, and he's registered five goals and nine assists over that span, including a goal and two helpers on the PP. Owned in just 34% of all Yahoo! leagues, he may be flying under most fantasy owners' radars given his multiple injuries this year, but he makes for a good pickup candidate given the fact that he's currently centering the Leafs' top PP line in between Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. Jump on him now before someone else in your league does.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars have won their last three games but still own one of the weaker PP attacks in the league at just 15.7%. However, don't tell this to defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has eight assists in his last seven games, five of which have come on the power play. Goligoski has historically been maddeningly inconsistent scoring-wise over his career, lighting it up for short stretches, then disappearing for even longer ones. For the time being, at least, he seems to be clicking on the Stars' top PP line, showing some chemistry with Sergei Gonchar, who has a PP goal plus two helpers of his own in his past three games. Despite his cold stretches, Goligoski does have a shot at topping the career-best 31 points he scored three seasons ago in Pittsburgh, so if you can stomach his cold spells, he could be of some assistance fantasy-wise. And his Yahoo! ownership is only 37% currently.

In Anaheim, after seeing Bobby Ryan traded to Ottawa in July, many experts predicted the Ducks would have hard time repeating last season's successes, placing first place in the Pacific Division and third place overall in the West. Well, we're now past the mid-way point of the season and the Ducks have missed nary a beat, sitting first overall in the West with 39 wins, more than any other NHL team. Much of the credit goes to the Ducks' big guns, of course, mainly Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but don't forget about 25-year-old Nick Bonino, who has stepped in supplied much of the secondary scoring the Ducks have needed in the wake of Ryan's departure. Bonino had 18 points in 50 games two seasons ago, but has blown past that mark and has set a new career-high with 40 points in 54 games so far this year, 19 of which have come on the power play. He's currently skating on the team's top PP line alongside Getzlaf, Perry, Dustin Penner and Cam Fowler. Furthermore, he's only owned in 43% of all Yahoo! leagues, so grab him while you can.

Finally, perhaps the only thing Calgary fans have had to cheer about this season is the fact the Flames' closest division rivals - the Edmonton Oilers - are the only team in the Western conference to have a worse record than they do. On the positive side, though, one bright spot for the Flames this year has been the emergence of 24-year-old Mikael Backlund, who is centering the team's top line in between Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak. Backlund, with 21 points in 51 games, including seven points on the PP, should easily establish a new career high in scoring this season. He has four goals and an assist in his last seven games (four of those points coming on the PP) and is averaging 2:30 centering the Flames' top PP line. He's only owned in 3% of all Yahoo! leagues, so for those of you in deeper formats, he could provide you a nice scoring boost right now.