Power-Play Bus Drivers

Power-Play deployments vary around the league but the one common denominator in a good power-play is a d-man who can drive the bus from the point. Power-Play chances and goals are still a rather rare and volatile commodity; although I noted in a previous article there has been an uptick in power-play conversions with the league average trending toward 19%. 


The chart above list d-men in order of total ice-time per game. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the clear leader in power-play time per game, usually playing on both units for the Coyotes power-play. The remainder of the top 10 is littered with guy’s we’d expect to be on the list of d-men who are alloted piles of power-play time; Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban and Brent Burns all surpass four minutes per game. After Shayne Gostisbehere who sits 6th, the separation between one player and the next diminishes significantly. 

Usually if a team’s power-play is struggling the hockey media will criticize the lack of shots generated on the power-play. Teams like New Jersey generate very few shots on the power-play with a CF of just 80.9/60. On Tuesday they even failed to generate a single shot on net during a 5 on 3, Nonetheless they are converting on 21.2% of their power-play chances, likely sacrificing shots for quality shots. New Jersey and Chicago are similar in that regard. The Blackhawks have the 2nd lowest CF/60 on the power-play yet have the 2nd best power-play unit in the league, PDO be damned. Washington, Los Angeles and Boston are all among the top five in power-play conversion and CF/60. Outside of a few outliers like the Devils and Blackhawks, the more shots you generate on the power-play the more likely you are to convert on those power-plays. 

If most teams cycle their power-play through the points, and shot generation is vital for power-play conversion, which defensemen are the true bus drivers in the league? Looking at the chart on below you’ll see the top-1o defensemen in the league in CF/60 on the power-play. Some names are familiar and coorelated with the first list but others man surprise. you. Looking at the numbers you’ll also see a pretty significant drop-off below 120CF/60.


Some interesting names on this list, but these guys statistically speaking drive the puck to the net on the power-play at more efficient rates than anyone else in the league. The name that pops right off the top of the list is Shayne Gostisbehere. The Flyers rookie from Union College is an absolute monster on the power-play being on the ice for more shots generated than any other defensemen (over 100 minutes) in the entire league. He’s on the ice for nearly 130 generated shots per 60 minutes, the next closest defender is more than seven shots behind. Mark Streit or not, this kid should not ever play another second of hockey in the AHL. Flyer fans should be excited with Ghost already producing in the league, and Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim progressing through the CHL. 

The other names on the list are a mixed bag of expectations and production:

  • John Carlson – No surprise here with the Caps owning the top power-play in the league
  • Torey Krug – The Bruins have the 5th ranked power-play, and Krug’s emergence makes the loss of Dougie Hamilton and the decline of Zdeno Chara more palpable. Also note his 115 ICF. Only Faulk, Burns, OEL and Subban have more ICF than Krug.
  • Jake Gardiner – Rather surprising given the fact Toronto ranks dead last in the league on the power-play
  • Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez – Both Muzzin and Martinez have seen over 100 minutes on the power-play but less than the 161 minutes played by Drew Doughty. They have 11 and 10 points respectively and often provide very good value and a nice pivot play to very low ownership percentages on the Kings 3rd ranked power-play. 
  • Sami Vatanen – The Ducks have the 9th ranker power-play. Ice time per game is pretty split between Vatanen and Fowler. Rookie Shea Theodore looked good in his brief stint with the team, leading to speculation that either Vatanen or Fowler could be moved to add a scoring winger (here’s looking at you Jonathan Drouin)
  • Drew Doughty – I’ve already touched on the Kings. Their power-play is under rated and they generate a significant amount of shots on net with any of their top three d-men. 
  • Alex Edler – Vancouver’s power-play ranks just 25th. Edler has over 160 minutes of power-play time and is 3rd overall on the Canucks. The lack of production in Vancouver could be more an issue of finish. Outside of the Sedin’s no player in Vancouver has hit double digits in power-play points
  • Dion Phaneuf – The much maligned Phaneuf sits 10th in the league among defensemen in CF/60. Ottawa is 20th in the league on the power-play. Over the last three games Phaneuf has seen a tremendous amount of power-play time with Erik Karlsson, and although personally he has just nine points to show for it, with a guy like Bobby Ryan or Mike Hoffman, there to finish, Dion could convert on more chances in the future. 


Shot generation is a good indicator of power-play success, especially if combined with any skill at the forward position. Look no further than Philadelphia. If you didn’t like Shayne Gostisbehere enough before today, the data is there to back it up. This kid is not a fluke. He is productive and drives play on the man-advantage. Keep deploying him with confidence. The Flyers have been a different team with him in the lineup. 


Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Jazdzewski

I am the founder and owner of DFS Datalytics. I've been stats minded even as a kid. I used to write down my own stats in NHL '95, I've played season long fantasy sports since the mid 90’s and have made the jump to DFS three seasons ago. I specialize in NHL and NASCAR. Catch my on twitter @LedgerSko and @DFSDatalytics #DataForWinning

ledgersko has 223 posts and counting.See all posts by ledgersko

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *