Our goal in fantasy hockey is to read tea leaves to identify the players who will help us accumulate as many counting stats as possible. Checkers and grinders are undoubtedly vital to the NHL game, but those skills are worthless to us in fantasy. What we want are the guys lighting up the scoreboard.
Oddly enough, oftentimes the guys lighting up the scoreboard have done a lot of damage on the powerplay. Of the top 50 goal scorers from last season the average player netted 27% of his goals on the powerplay. It’s easier to score on the powerplay given that there is one less defender so identifying players who proved to be good even strength scorers and should see a bump in powerplay time next year should yield some fantasy sleepers.
Jamie Benn – Benn’s exploits have been chronicled extensively at this point, but he bears mentioning on this list. He will never be a late round pick, but the expanded role he will see when the next season begins should make him a very high draft pick.The departure of Mike Ribeiro will push Benn to the top powerplay unit. Last season Benn was 8th in the NHL in even strength goals per sixty, but ended up 5th among Stars forwards in powerplay time. Look for that to change and his point totals to sky rocket.
Kyle Okposo -The Islanders lost P.A. Parenteau this offseason to a relatively massive contract handed out by the Colorado Avalanche. He piggy backed on John Tavares for a very good season and saw a decent amont of powerplay time which led to the payday. With Parenteau gone someone will have to fill the void. Why not Okposo?
Okposo scored 24 goals last season for the Islanders and scored 1.07 even strength goals per sixty minutes. The extra powerplay time could be just what Okposo needs to take his status to the next level.
Matt Halischuk – The Predators situation mandates that they give players opportunities to succeed if they prove to the organization that they’re worthy of the chance. Matt Halischuk might be in need of a bigger role.
Last season Halischuk scored 13 goals in 73 games while playing 11 minutes a night. Modest counting totals to be sure, but among forwards who played in 50 games he was 21st in the league in even strength goals per sixty minutes. He was also 12th among Predators forwards in powerplay time per game at eight seconds per game. Given a larger role and more powerplay time his counting totals could rise considerably.
Luke Adam – Luke Adam is a 22 year old accomplished minor league scorer. He has a 57 game AHL campaign under his belt where he put up 29 goals. In 2010 Adam registered 90 points in 56 games for Cape Breton of the QMJHL. Last year in 52 games for the Sabres Adam scored ten goals and had ten assists. He led the Sabres in even strength goals per sixty, but barely sniffed the powerplay at 1.53 minutes per game. He’s a young kid to keep an eye on and could pay dividends in fantasy this season.
Viktor Stalberg – Poor Viktor Stalberg. He plays for the one team in the league where he doesn’t have a prayer of seeing the ice on the powerplay. After scoring 22 goals in 79 games for the Blackhawks the chances of his powerplay time increasing remain slim due to the Chicago depth. He scored at the same rate at even strength as James Neal and Phil Kessel, but he saw a measley 45 seconds of powerplay time per game. If an injury were to hit the Blackhawks top six Stalberg would become an excellent fantasy acquisition on top of already being a solid sleeper.
Odds & Ends
There are any number of possible candidates you could come up with. Matt Read looks nice. Jiri Hudler could bust out in Calgary. The list goes on, but the aforementioned guys have the combination of ability and opportunity (well, except for Stalberg) to cement their place as legitimate buy low candidates. If they aren’t already on your list it wouldn’t hurt to throw them on there.