The 2014-15 Edmonton Oilers Powerplay

Oilers fans

Edmonton’s offseason changes have been discussed with a fair degree of thoroughness, but one thing I haven’t seen covered is the makeup of the power play. Four regulars (five counting Ales Hemsky) from last year’s unit have since departed, and a number of the team’s recent additions could figure in as replacements. All that, and we haven’t even mentioned the impact of new assistant coach Craig Ramsay on the unit.

So, how should the coaching staff run this year’s unit?

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The Forwards


Players ranked by average minutes per game on the power play in 2013-14.

  • Taylor Hall (LH). Hall’s averaged about 3:00 per game at five-on-four over the last few seasons for the Oilers. His point totals and on-ice goal totals are excellent (he’s 11th among NHL forwards in points/hour 5-on-4 over the last three seasons), he can both shoot and pass, and the unit’s on-ice shot numbers have steadily improved with him out there. He’s a lock for the first unit.
  • Jordan Eberle (RH). Eberle’s a touch back of Hall in virtually every individual category, and unsurprisingly he’s on the same level in terms of on-ice numbers. His 5-on-4 points per hour figure (4.45) over the last three seasons ranks 41st in the NHL and he tied for the team lead with 20 points on the power play in 2013-14. He’s another certain first unit forward.
  • Teddy Purcell (RH). Purcell has more bad seasons than good on the power play, and the best way to sum up his scoring totals (3.78 points/hour) over the last three seasons is probably to say that they’re in the same range as those posted by Sam Gagner (3.73 points/hour). As in all things he’s more playmaker than goal-scorer.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (LH). The top five playmakers (in terms of assists per hour) in 5-on-4 situations over Nugent-Hopkins career are as follow: Nicklas Backstrom, Claude Giroux, Nugent-Hopkins, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We’ve looked at him before; there’s a strong case that he’s the machine that makes the whole unit work.
  • David Perron (RH). Perron’s eight power play goals last season were a career high; he’d previously never topped five. He’s been a perfectly mediocre power play scorer over his career and for the most part the power play units he’s been a part of haven’t scored at a particularly noteworthy rate.
  • Nail Yakupov (LH). It’s pretty early to judge one way or the other on Yakupov, at least by the numbers; he’s played roughly four hours of five-on-four total over his NHL career. He looked awfully good as a goal-scorer in 2012-13 and every time I see him shoot I think he has a future as the primary triggerman on a power play unit.
  • Benoit Pouliot (LH). Pouliot scored seven power play goals last season, which pretty much doubled his career totals (he’d had eight over the entirety of his major league career entering 2013-14). There is one potential big point in his favour, though: he’s pretty much always played second unit minutes, which dramatically reduces opportunity. The flip side of that is no coach has ever seen enough to stick him on the top unit long term.
  • Mark Arcobello (RH). The NHL numbers are pretty useless when it comes to judging Arcobello’s power play production, because the sample is so limited. He doesn’t have much of a shot but he’s special as a playmaker.
  • Anton Lander (LH). Lander looked out of place on an NHL power play during his late-season stint in Edmonton, but he did score 10 goals in 46 AHL games while on the man advantage and has a surprisingly heavy and accurate shot (at least, surprising for anyone who has seen his tentative offensive gamei n the majors).
  • Leon Draisaitl (LH). A total wildcard. Draisaitl ran up crooked numbers on the power play last season; among first-time CHL draft eligibles only Sam Reinhart collected more points on special teams.

The Defencemen


As before, players ranked by average minutes per game on the power play in 2013-14.

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  • Justin Schultz (RH). Schultz could be a good fit based on history; he was glorious in Oklahoma City and carried it over in a major way to an NHL power play in 2012-13 (seriously, he was over 5.0 points per hour, which is Shea Weber territory). Everything went wrong in 2013-14; his numbers were miserable and the eye test said he couldn’t hold the puck in on the point or break glass with his slapshot.
  • Jeff Petry (RH). Petry had a nice power play season in 2011-12, but overall the numbers aren’t kind to him; of the 115 defencemen to play at least 200 minutes at five-on-four over his four year career Petry ranks 104th in scoring.
  • Nikita Nikitin (LH). Nikitin had two strong scoring years on the power play to start his career, then dipped a little in 2012-13 and was all-but-dumped in 2013-14. He has a heavy shot and can make a pass; one wonders whether he doesn’t deserve a more prolonged shot.
  • Martin Marincin (LH). Marincin has a hard shot and a track record of pretty solid numbers at other levels, but he’s played all of 20 minutes on the power play in the majors.
  • Andrew Ference (LH). It’s easy to forget these days, but Ference was an awfully good scoring defenceman in the WHL and AHL and has had some pretty decent power play years in the majors; he’s gone basically unused over the last five seasons.
  • Oscar Klefbom (LH). Someone was going to suggest it. He hasn’t scored at any level in ages, though.
  • Darnell Nurse (LH). He’s been pretty good in junior, scoring six goals on the power play last season, but again he’s a total wildcard.


7.14.14 PP

The Oilers’ most proven power play options are the trio of players who make up the top line: Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle. Assuming the team doesn’t want to revisit the five forward power play (though Oklahoma executed it nicely at times last season and Barons coach Todd Nelson told me he’s used it successfully in years prior) Edmonton’s best defence option is probably Justin Schultz.

Given those four players, the idea of a basic 1-3-1 setup is pretty obvious. Hall’s done nice work in the slot, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins fit the quarterback description on either side of him, and the formation depends more on getting pucks on net rather than a hard point shot, which fits Schultz’s skillset. The power play can shift to a different look pretty easily, too; with Hall and Pouliot on either side of the net it’s an umbrella, and Hall can slide down into the corner to turn it into an overload play.

The obvious problem is a lack of a consistently heavy shot from either the point or the half-boards, which is probably why the Oilers are so focused on the down-low play. If the group isn’t working early, they might try plugging Nikitin or Yakupov in for Schultz – if a defenceman is needed in the latter case, Schultz could always take Eberle’s slot on the half-boards too.

That second unit has pretty decent options, too.

Nikitin seems the obvious candidate for the point position; he’s likely to be on the same even-strength pair as Schultz and he has a reputation for a heavy shot. The other obvious placement is Yakupov in on the half-boards; he’s a reasonably good playmaker and that’s the best place for his one-timer.

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The other three choices are less clear, in part because we don’t really know what’s going to happen at centre. Both Perron and Purcell seem like locks, and the final slot could go to any of Draisaitl, Arcobello, Lander or the newcomer; I’ve assumed Draisaitl. Purcell seems a good fit for the half-boards, and I’ve slotted the last two players with the idea of both mirroring the top unit but on the other side of the ice and limiting Draisaitl’s responsibilities.

As with the first unit, the second becomes an umbrella pretty easily with Perron and Draisaitl on opposite sides of the net; more importantly (because I’d really want Yakupov on the weak side) it can shift to an overload play with either Perron moving down to the corner or Purcell cycling down and Perron taking his spot.

The Oilers have a lot of talent at their disposal, but Schultz seems the critical link. If he can generate the kind of results he did on the point in 2012-13 (either in the AHL or the NHL) the Oilers will be in great shape; if not changes will need to be made.

Note: incorrectly lists Pouliot as a right-handed shot, and I forgot to check. Given that, it might make more sense to swap Perron to the net front role on the first power play and slide Pouliot into his spot on the second unit. It also makes the idea of sticking Purcell in front of the net and putting Arcobello on the half-boards a little more appealing. 


    • Lots and lots and lots of teams use the 1-3-1 successfully without giving up a zillion shorthanded goals, and it’s a tiny tweak from the 1-3-1 to either an overload or an umbrella.

      I really don’t think the 1-3-1 was why the Oilers gave up shorthanded goals last year.

      • Lots and lots and lots of teams use the 1-3-1 successfully without giving up a zillion shorthanded goals, and it’s a tiny tweak from the 1-3-1 to either an overload or an umbrella.

        Lots and lots and lots of other teams don’t have Justin Schultz as the lone “D-man” on the blue line and a first-year rookie in front of the net.

        Let’s just bury the dreaded 1-3-1 and we’ll see a lot less of Taylor Hall smashing his stick in disgust as Scrivens fishes another one out of the back of the net.

      • IDK JW. Every time the OIlers had the PP, it was like watching a train wreck unfold… so terrifying yet absolutely nothing you could do about it. You just knew that eventually they would turn the puck over near the blue line and the other team would have an odd man rush the other way.

        It is possible that the new personal and Ramsay can turn it around and maybe, just maybe the Oilers can be included among those lots, lots and lots of other teams that use it correctly.

        Until then I remain highly skeptical and wish they would use a 2-1-2 or a 3-2 formation instead.

      • Lofty

        Overload, ugh… yes please.

        Schultz can sneak in far side, which he seems to like to do. Also the added size to the team will help in front of the net.

        What did they run in the AHL when Schultz ran up his numbers during the lockout? anyone know?

        • NsxZero

          I remember seeing Schultz was on fire with his wrist shot in the AHL. I’m not sure but I think I remember him saying he wasn’t scoring on those same shots in the NHL.

        • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

          I don’t know the details of the Barons’ system when the kids lit it up, but I believe pretty much every Shultz wrist shot from the point went in for a couple months.

          Also, while a lot of teams had NHL players in the AHL during the lockout, it’s important to remmeber that they were still playing in the AHL. It isn’t always fair to assume that success would translate directly into the NHL.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    We’ve had the 1-3-1 for 2 years now. it was on fire the first season but was taken down to earth the 2nd year. my theory is that teams figured out our plan. they know we’re no threat from the point so they seemed to rush schultz a little more.

    Nikitin put up the points when given the time but his ice time dropped and was given to other d-men. he went from 2:45 on the pp to 1:52 to 0:48. maybe his clapper from the point can be the threat that keeps the opposing PK on their toes and in the slot. If the pk rushes him, he shoots the puck, our forwards pick it up and get a chance while the PK is trying to set up again.

    idk. just a guess.

    “Justin Schultz (RH). Schultz could be a good fit based on history; he was glorious in Oklahoma City and carried it over in a major way to an NHL power play in 2012-13 (seriously, he was over 5.0 points per hour, which is Shea Weber territory). Everything went wrong in 2013-14; his numbers were miserable and the eye test said he couldn’t hold the puck in on the point or break glass with his slapshot.”

    nice to hear some praise for schultz. Weber numbers should keep the haters quiet who want him gone after 122 games when most d-men hit their stride at game 300.

  • oilbaron

    I hated it when Eakins put that 5 forward PP on the ice; you know, the one with Eberle and Schultz on the blueline!!

    If Schultz is on the PP you need a defenseman back there too!

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Am I the only one that thinks Yak’s one-timer from the right side is terribly overrated?

    I see the potential, but he doesn’t connect on it very often. Maybe that’s why the other Oilers seldom pass to him?

    • camdog

      I think Ray Ferraro said it best on the Team 1260 last season. He’ll often stand in one spot, which is easy to defend. Until Yakopov learns to move his feet, he doesn’t provide much of a shot on the powerplay.

    • pwnisms

      I completely agree. While I think he has an amazing shot, I saw him whiff on the puck or completely miss the net SO many times. Frustrating to watch as I didn’t see him do much else until very late in the season. Hopefully he can gain some confidence back during the offseason.

  • camdog

    So much is riding on what happens with Yakupov this year. They need to get him a role on this team that he can embrace and be comfortable with. And I think part of the solution is making him a key on one of the PP units. Set him up all day and night for one timers. This will add an element to the PP and also help Yak get more involved in the games. With all the additions I just think it’s key that they get this kid going.

  • Great blog Willis! We should have some great options on the PP this season. A couple questions for you. Fiest off, wasn’t the 1-3-1 one of the big flawa with our PP last season or would you credit that more to poor reads on pinching in

    Second, I’m not as familiar with Ramsays past coaching. Are thethere any formations or strategies he has used in the past that stand out to you that we could see incorporated here?

  • pwnisms

    The limited success with zone entry was very frustrating. Our underwhelming success in the face-off circle required the power play to re-group in our zone and attempt a controlled zone entry. Teams did not respect our ability to retrieve pucks on dump-ins which allowed then to play a tight gap and pressure the puck carrier when he entered the zone. Hopefully the new additions can help Hall push the defenders deeper into the zone so that Nuge and Ebs have room to make plays if they are carrying the puck into the offensive zone.

  • oilbaron

    You park Perron in front of the net on the powerplay and you are begging for another concussion. Players in that role take a beating and Perron’s noggin should be treated with care. Next concussion could knock him out of hockey.

  • oilbaron

    Its high time we got some goal scoring from the backend.

    Last season PPG : Schultz 1 goal., Petry 1 goal; Larsen 1 goal.

    That’s pretty sad if you ask me.

    My dog has a better slap shot than Schultz.

    The other problem is that there are not forwards in front of the net to deflect shots on the power play.. to many softies skating on the outskirts.

  • OilClog

    We were a periphery type team the majority of the time , that also had trouble retrieving pucks on dump ins . We also were not very good at net presence the majority of the time . Pouliot and Purcell should both help in that regard , as would Draisaitl if he makes it. Second bone of contention is lack of shots on target from the blue line . Hopefully that will be better as well with new acquisitions and Nurse if he makes it . Hall is currently the only forward good at puck retrieval and he requires more diversity than others were providing him . Power play should have more diversity this season and thus better overall , as well as cutting down short handed goals against . Possession time in opponents end should also be more favorable as a result .

  • oilbaron

    If by some horrible failure on the part of MacT they start the season with that group of forwards I wonder if we’ll see RNH double shifting a lot on he pp as he did under Renney. I hope hey don’t settle for a guy that peaks as a number 3 center but bundle Eberle up with whatever it takes to bring in a guy that can push Nuge for that number 1 spot. Couple that with a Ryan Johansson offersheet and suddenly they actually look like a good hockey team.