Hot And Cold On The Power Play

Mark Barbour (@18sktrs,

In this article I’m going to look at some of the leading point scorers in the NHL and ask whether they’re too hot or too cold on the power play.

The data for this article was pulled from 2 sources: (1) data for the 2022-2023 season was pulled from Natural Stat Trick and include games played on or before December 6, 2022; and (2) historical data was pulled from using hockeyR.

Power Play Points As A Percentage Of Total Points

It’s unusual for a top skater to score more than 40% of his total points on the power play. Percentages between 35-40% are a little more common but are still at the upper end of the range. Want a little more context? This table summarizes the top 30 point scorers in each of the last 4 seasons (starting at the top with the 2021-2022 season). The “Mean” column shows the average percentage of a skater’s total points that were power play points while the “Max.” column shows the single highest percentage.

Min.1st Qu.MedianMean3rd Qu.Max.

Only 8 of the 120 skaters included in the above data scored more than 40% of their total points on the power play.

What’s Happening This Season?

The plot below shows the skaters who have the most points in the NHL at this point in the season. Each skater’s dot provides information about the percentage of his total points that were scored on the power play. An orange dot indicates a higher percentage than a blue dot, and the actual percentage is displayed inside the dot.

When looking at the data below keep in mind that a skater could reduce the percentage of his points scored on the power play by increasing his scoring in other game states. Perhaps a skater has been unlucky at 5v5 and “regression” might come in the form of increased 5v5 scoring, not reduced power play scoring.

I’m not going to talk about every skater on this list. Here are my comments, starting with the guys at the top:

  • Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lead the NHL in scoring at this time. Both skaters depend a lot on the power play to put up points, with both having only 15 points at 5v5. McDavid and Draisaitl are pushing career highs in power play points per game this season, so we could see a slow down going forward. Perhaps getting Evander Kane back in the line up will eventually provide a boost in points at 5v5, or maybe they can improve their own play. You might be surprised to find out that Draisaitl isn’t in the top 100 skaters for Goals/60 at 5v5 (min. 200 minutes) and his Expected Goals/60 is all the way down at 257th. That doesn’t really fit with his reputation as one of the top goal scorers in the NHL (as an Oilers fan, it gives me no pleasure to say that).
  • Jason Robertson is in a sweet spot with 34% of his points scored on the power play. That’s a sustainable number for a top scorer. His underlying numbers suggest that he’s among the best 5v5 goal scorers in the league, and he plays with two other decent 5v5 scorers in Hintz and Pavelski. I’ll also mention his time-on-ice: Robertson plays 4.5-5 minutes less per game than McDavid and Draisaitl. What happens if that changes? Robertson looks real nice right now.
  • Nikita KucherovKirill KaprizovJohn TavaresRasmus Dahlin, and J.T. Miller have all scored at least 50% of their points on the power play, and they’re all pushing career highs in power play points per game. Having said that, most of them are near career norms when it comes to total points per game so perhaps they’ll find a way to maintain their overall point pace this season. The exception is Dahlin who is crushing his career norms (currently pacing to score 99 points). His power play scoring could be an area where we see a slow down for Dahlin as the season rolls on.
  • Sidney Crosby has scored a lot of points, but they’re not coming on the power play. You’ll notice that Jake Guentzel has a matching blue dot on this list. Both skaters are below recent career norms when it comes to scoring on the power play, but both skaters are also above recent career norms in total points per game. Crosby is shooting at 22.64% at 5v5, which probably explains some of what’s happening here. There’s also the fact that both Crosby and Guentzel have 5 points scored on an empty net, which is more than any other skater on this list. There could be some “negative” regression coming for these guys, but that might be offset by increased scoring on the power play.
  • Erik Karlsson has scored a lot of points this season. That’s odd in itself, but it’s even more remarkable when you see that he’s doing it at 5v5. He’s actually second in the NHL for scoring at 5v5 (tied with Jason Robertson). An optimist might say that Karlsson has some potential for even more scoring on the power play. A skeptic is looking at that 5v5 scoring as being unsustainable. This is definitely one of the more surprising stories of the season and it will be interesting to see how it ends. Can he finish the season as a point-per-game defenseman? Karlsson scored at a point-per-game pace in one previous season (2015-2016, in Ottawa). Could a little more scoring on the power play help him land there again? He has scored 1.21 points per game so far this season, and he would need to score 0.89 points per game going forward to finish point-per-game over 82 games. FYI, he scored 0.7 points per game last season.
  • Johnny Gaudreau has scored 5 points on the power play. That’s tied with Jake Guentzel for the fewest power play points among the skaters on this list. Meanwhile he’s scoring at a 93-point pace for the season (which is roughly where my personal skater projections have him). I get the impression that most people are down on Columbus as a team and likely don’t value Gaudreau as a 90+ point skater. You might be able to get him on your roster for a reasonable price.

The End Of The Article

That’s it for this week. Let me know if there’s a topic that you’d like me to cover in a future article. Cheers!

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