Ranking the Top Power-Play Specialists in the NHL

Rob Vollman@robvollmanNHLContributor IOctober 9, 2013

Ranking the Top Power-Play Specialists in the NHL

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    Certain players are simply deadly on the power play, and can almost single-handedly generate the extra scoring that boosts lottery teams into the postseason and bubble teams into contention. Who are the best of the best?

    As usual, the player selection will be free of personal opinion. The players were selected by adding their power-play goals per 60 minutes over the past three years to their power-play assists rate, but weighing the goals twice as much (most power-play goals involve two assists).

    Obviously this method will exclude rookies and sophomores, make it impossible to include any defensemen and make it a little tougher for playmakers.

    In fairness, a lot of great power-play specialists missed this list for no other reason than lacking the high-quality linemates most of the players on this list enjoy. And despite using a three-year average, there are still some that missed because of prolonged cold streaks when they got just as many opportunities, but were hitting nothing but leather and goal posts.

    There are a lot of effective players on the power play, but only a chosen few whose appearance on the ice fills opponents with the most dread.

     

    All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted. 

     

10. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 1.94

    Assists per 60 minutes: 4.13

     
    Sidney Crosby established his tremendous abilities with the man advantage early, when in 2006-07 his team scored a whopping 73 power play markers with the 19-year-old sophomore on the ice, 61 of which he was involved in directly on his way to 120 points and the league scoring title.

    Pittsburgh's power play was even hotter last season, finishing second to the Washington Capitals with a 24.7 percent success rate. Crosby was a big part of the Penguins' power play whenever he was in the lineup last year. He played 78.2 percent of all available power-play minutes, during which time he was in on 94.4 percent of the scoring. 

    If there's any knock against the Penguins' power play is that it can be somewhat streaky. It started off the season cold and ended dead cold in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. But when Crosby is on, so is their power play.

     

     

9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 1.93

    Assists per 60 minutes: 4.18

     

    The 2007-08 season was Pavel Datsyuk's biggest, scoring 40 points with the man advantage out of the 60 that were scored while he was on the ice and on the way to the first of two consecutive 97-point seasons.

    Detroit's once dominant power play has been merely average the past two seasons, but could easily resume its deadly tradition with the arrival of Daniel Afredsson and the return of a healthy Mikael Samuelsson, one of the league's most underrated power-play specialists.

    As for Datsyuk, even at age 35 he remains one of the more feared scorers with the man advantage. His talent in both shooting and playmaking is almost without rival.

     

     

     

8. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 1.64

    Assists per 60 minutes: 4.77

     

    Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers scored on 21.6 percent of their man-advantage situations, the third highest percentage in the league, and Claude Giroux was largely to credit, leading the team with 20 power-play points.

    Giroux worked 61.8 percent of all minutes the Flyers played with the man advantage, and was in on 72.4 percent of the scoring that took place while he was on the ice, usually as the playmaker. In 2011-12, Giroux assisted on 32 power-play goals.

    Given that Giroux is also responsible for killing penalties, it's a wonder that he's able to contribute at this elite level.

     

     

     

7. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.71

    Assists per 60 minutes: 2.78

     

    Steven Stamkos first won the Maurice Richard trophy as the league's leading goal scorer as a 19-year-old sophomore in 2009-10, when he scored 51 goals, including a league-leading 24 with the man advantage. Over that and the next season, Tampa Bay scored a whopping 111 power play goals with Stamkos on the ice, 41 of which he scored personally, and another 36 on which he assisted.

    Last year, Stamkos worked 65.6 percent of all available power-play minutes, during which time he either scored or registered an assist on all 18 goals that occurred. Stamkos and Martin St. Louis form a deadly duo with the man advantage, creating a relatively potent power play out of one that would might otherwise finish among the league worst.

     

     

6. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.84

    Assists per 60 minutes: 2.67

     

    One reason why Anaheim occasionally defies the pundits is by capitalizing on a larger share of their power play opportunities. While Ryan Getzlaf deserves some of the credit, Corey Perry is often the one standing in front of the net and actually banging them in.

    While Anaheim has historically had many power-play weapons at their disposal, last year Perry was assigned 59.7 percent of available power play minutes, during which time he either scored or assisted on 55.6 percent of the scoring. That total might even be higher if points were awarded for screening goalies.

     

5. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.94

    Assists per 60 minutes: 2.47

     

    The Edmonton Oilers may have struggled in a variety of areas over the past two seasons, but the power play isn't one of them. Their 20.7 percent success rate last season was fifth in the league, up slightly from the 20.6 percent that finished third in 2011-12.

    With the wealth of tremendous talent, the Oilers should be expected to climb their way on top and stay there. Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz have all been awesome in a relatively short time, but the current star is Taylor Hall.

    Last year, Hall was assigned 56.6 percent of available power-play minutes, during which time he was in on 87.5 percent of the scoring. A scoring title could find its way back to Edmonton one day, with Hall's power-play mastery helping pave the way.

     

     

     

     

4. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 3.12

    Assists per 60 minutes: 2.67

     

    Joe Thornton has posted an amazing 5.26 assists per 60 minutes, and one of his favorite targets is the underrated Logan Couture.

    Whether you give more credit to Thornton or to Couture, the results at the team level have been clear. The Sharks were successful on 20.1 percent of their power plays, seventh in the NHL, and were second in 2011-12 when they converted on 21.1 percent.

    Couture led the Sharks in power-play goals for the second straight season, working 54.9 percent of available power-play minutes and either scoring or assisting on 66.7 percent.

     

     

     

3. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.58

    Assists per 60 minutes: 3.99

     

    Vancouver had an absolutely insane power play in 2010-11, converting on 24.3 percent of their opportunities. Daniel Sedin led the league with 18 power-play goals en route to his only 40-goal season and the Art Ross trophy. Ryan Kesler added another 15 power-play goals (and another 40-goal scorer), and even a defense-only player like Manny Malhotra bagged three.

    Daniel Sedin hasn't exactly been a slouch since then. Last season, for instance, he worked 62.3 percent of available power-play minutes, during which time he scored or assisted on 80 percent of the goals that occurred. He may even more potent this season with the return of a healthy Kesler.

     

     

     

     

2. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.88

    Assists per 60 minutes: 3.46

     

    Unlike the others on this list, Thomas Vanek rarely has elite players to help boost his power-play totals. In fact, Buffalo has a downright lousy power play that ranked second to last in the NHL with a success rate of just 14.1 percent last year.

    It certainly isn't Vanek's fault. He led the league in power-play goals in 2008-09 with 20, and has led the Sabres every year since Chris Drury scored 17 in 2006-07.

    Last year, Vanek was used on 61.3 of all available power-play minutes, during which time he scored or assisted on 87.5 percent of all goals scored. It's frightening to think how deadly Vanek could be if surrounded by other strong players, such as their developing young prospects.

     

     

     

1. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Goals per 60 minutes: 2.88

    Assists per 60 minutes: 3.53

     

    Teemu Selanne is one of the greatest power-play specialists of all time, and at age 43, could still be the greatest today. 

    His uncanny scoring abilities have twice led the league with 25 power-play goals and landed him in the top ten in four consecutive seasons ending as recently as 2011-12.

    All this has added up to 251 career power-play goals, which is third all time. Only Brett Hull and Dave Andreychuk have more power-play goals in their career, and among active players, the nearest is Jaromir Jagr at 195 and Jarome Iginla at 165.

     

     

     

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.