Fantasy hockey: Power play opportunities to watch

Andre Burakovsky could feature on one of the best power play units for the Colorado Avalanche. Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

ESPN.com standard fantasy leagues award a bonus 0.5 fantasy points when a player collects a goal or assist on special teams. While the shorthanded points are a nice little bonus when they happen, they are more or less inconsequential. Power plays are where you need to focus for fantasy.

The leader for the past three seasons for shorthanded points is Brad Marchand with 17 of them. Sebastian Aho is next with 13, Patrice Bergeron has 12 and Mika Zibanejad has 11. That information doesn't help you for fantasy. Not only are the bonus points relatively inconsequential for the league leaders, but you may also notice that all these players are already held in extraordinarily high esteem for fantasy.

Vladislav Namestnikov also has 11 shorthanded points in the past three seasons, so couldn't he be a specialist? No. Namestnikov has zero fantasy value and, even in a rotisserie league in which shorthanded points is its own category, having Namestnikov on your team for a half-dozen shorthanded points hurts you so much everywhere else, it's just not worth it.

There are roughly 10 times as many power-play points going around. Using players active from last season, they collectively totalled 10,500 power-play points and only 1,055 shorthanded points since 2018-19.

But what you need to look at while building your fantasy roster is whether players will hold or gain an opportunity to pad their stats on their team's power play.

When it comes to holding an opportunity, you want to avoid players who are at risk of having their fantasy value bottom out if they miss out on the power play. When a player gets too many of their points via special teams, there is a risk to their fantasy value. Take Keith Yandle as an example. He is easily the league leader for the past three seasons in reliance on the power play, as more than 58 percent of his total points have been on special teams. But that value dried up last season when he wasn't effective as the team's power-play quarterback. Now, if he doesn't get used on the top power-play unit by the Philadelphia Flyers this season, it's likely a safe bet that he won't have any fantasy value.

As for gaining an opportunity for special teams points, you want to look at players in new situations or new places that could provide that chance to shine. Take Tyson Barrie from last season as the example here. A proven power-play performer in the past, he was was reduced to a supporting role with the Toronto Maple Leafs - but a move to the Edmonton Oilers last season, couple with an injury to Oscar Klefbom, meant Barrie was a power-play quarterback again. Barrie is still very reliant on special teams, with 41 percent of his points coming there in the past three seasons, but he is well back of Yandle's high-water mark.

Barrie finished 33rd for total fantasy points among skaters last season, while Yandle finished 243rd.

Speculating on special teams

Andre Burakovsky, F, Colorado Avalanche: What's different this season? Joonas Donskoi was taken by the Seattle Kraken. Burakovsky and Donskoi took turns as the fourth forward on one of the league's top power-play units. With Donskoi out of the picture, Burakovsky could take the entire cake this season.

Mike Hoffman, F, Montreal Canadiens: What's different this season? Hoffman signed early and is a part of his team's plans for the season. He was deployed like an outsider last season after joining the Blues late. But Hoffman is an accomplished power-play asset, ranking 13th in the NHL for total special teams points in the past three seasons. He's missing training camp, but projects as a member of the Canadiens power-play plans.

Torey Krug, D, St. Louis Blues: What's different this season? Like it or lump it, Vladimir Tarasenko has to play for the Blues and, if he wants to improve his future, he needs to play well. He's a major upgrade for the team's power play, which is much better with him than without him. Krug didn't live up to expectations as a power-play quarterback in his first season in St. Louis, but with Tarasenko in tow, we can hope for better. Even with his rough season, he's 19th in total special teams points for the past three years.

Jakub Voracek, F, Columbus Blue Jackets: What's different this season? The Flyers have been fading Voracek as a key contributor on the power play for more than a season. His fresh start with the Blue Jackets, who are very much in need of help on offense, could be mutually beneficial for the team and Voracek. Despite only eight power-play points last season, Voracek is 75th in special teams points for the past three seasons.

Tony DeAngelo, D, Carolina Hurricanes: What's different this season? Off-rink distractions aside, the Hurricanes committed to giving DeAngelo a second chance and it's the perfect situation for him to take advantage of it. With no Dougie Hamilton to run the offense on the power play, DeAngelo offers a solution for the Hurricanes. Before his spiral to the taxi squad last season, DeAngelo posted 15 goals and 53 points in 2019-20 - including 19 points on the man advantage.

Jamie Drysdale, D, Anaheim Ducks: What's different this season? Rather than just waiting for the next generation to be ready, the Ducks should start throwing their key futures into the fire. On the blue line, that means the offensively talented Drysdale. With only the middling Cam Fowler and mercurial Kevin Shattenkirk in his way for power-play duties, his odds look good.

Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils: What's different this season? A legitimate power-play quarterback for the Devils. Adding power-play production to their repertoire is one of the most important things for a young prospect to breakthrough into the fantasy elite. There are other reasons to be excited about Hughes for this season, but having Dougie Hamilton on the point for when the Devils draw a penalty is chief among them.

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