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Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Power Play Options

I’ve written about the Oilers power play many times over the past few months and for good reason. Next to Cam Talbot, I believe the special teams’ units are the area where the Oilers most desperately need a bounce-back.

Their penalty kill appeared to have begun to figure things out as the year continued (in the last 41 games, they had the 3rd best PK in the league) but their power play never really did.

With the amount of skill they have, there is no excuse for the Oilers to not have a top ten power play.

I’m not going to breakdown IF the group they have is good enough to have an elite power play, but instead, I’m going to look at the some of the biggest questions surrounding the Oilers and their power play.

LOAD UP A UNIT?

Oilers Insider Bob Stauffer tweeted out the two units that the Oilers were using at practice last week, and I found them rather interesting.

The first thing I noticed is that the Oilers have all three of their top offensive players on the top unit. There are a few reasons why I’m not a fan of that idea.

First, all the players are left handed which means that on one side of the ice there is no chance to create a one-timer. That makes life easier for the opposition since they know there is no chance of a quick shot coming from one side of the ice.

The other issue I have is that their second unit looks absolutely awful. There isn’t one elite power play producer, despite there being three on the other unit. Now, you might say that the solution would be for Todd McLellan to just play the top unit for 90 seconds every time, but I’m not sure if that’s realistic.

What if Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins draw a penalty towards the end of the shift? Well, then they might not be able to stay on the ice for another 90 seconds to run the power play. Same goes for Leon Draisaitl. What if that unit stays out for close to two minutes? Then after the power play is over, McLellan will be forced to throw one of his bottom two lines.

It seems small, and maybe I’m just overthinking this whole thing, but I believe the best play for the Oilers would be to put one of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl on the second unit and shift one of Ryan Strome or Jesse Puljujarvi over to the top unit.

That will put one right-handed shot to go opposite of Connor McDavid and give the second unit a bonafide power play producer.

WHO’S ON THE POINT?

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) skates with the puck during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Again, it’s pretty obvious that a healthy Oscar Klefbom will get a really long look on that top unit, and deservedly so. But I would expect that his leash will be rather shot given how much that top unit struggled last season.

Early in camp, Matt Benning has been getting reps on the second unit and that makes sense. He played the second most PP minutes among Oilers d-men last year and his numbers were pretty solid. A 0.94 primary points/60 shows he could produce well, and he wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck which is often a problem with the Oilers power play. In his third season in the NHL, it wouldn’t surprise me if he takes another step forward in his offensive development.

If Evan Bouchard or Ethan Bear happen to make this team out of camp, then it’s almost a given that they will be given significant power play time. But I don’t think that’s a very likely scenario.

I would love to see Darnell Nurse get a good, honest look on one of the top power play units. I wrote about it more in depth earlier this week, but last year we saw Nurse take a big step forward in terms of how well he handles the puck. If he continues to develop his offensive game, I think he could become a solid power play option.

He played just over 30 minutes on the power play last season and in that small sample size, his numbers were not very good. Regardless, when I watch him play I see a lot of offensive potential and I would love to have him unlock that potential this season.

WHO GETS THE FINAL FORWARD SPOTS?

Mar 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal assisted by forward Connor McDavid (97), his 100th point of the season at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s safe to assume that the Oilers will run four forwards on each unit, meaning there is room for eight players to get regular powerplay minutes.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome, and Jesse Puljujarvi will likely be the regulars, but who should get looks in those final two spots?

Drake Caggiula is occupying one of those spots right now, and I’m not sure I love that idea. He isn’t a proven option and while he does have some good offensive instincts, I’m not sure he’s their best bet. Caggiula did get 65 minutes on the power play last year and his 2.76 points/60 was actually third best on the team, so if we look at just the numbers, it makes sense why he’s getting a good look on PP2 here in training camp. The sample size is small, but the numbers are good.

Based on his play in the preseason, I wouldn’t be stunned if Ty Rattie finally starts getting a look on the powerplay. I’m actually surprised the team didn’t try it at all last season. He clearly has a lot of natural offensive ability, you can’t deny that he has chemistry with Connor McDavid, and he shoots right. He’s a perfect fit.

It looks like Tobias Rieder will get a good look on Leon Draisaitl’s line at even strength, so it would make sense that he gets some powerplay time as well. If the Oilers were to split up Draisaitl and McDavid on the powerplay, I think it would make sense to have Rieder on the second unit with his fellow German.

Apart from Milan Lucic, the Oilers don’t really have that prototypical big body to stand in front of the oppositions net. I think Jujhar Khaira could be that guy. Last year we saw him take some positive strides in terms of his offensive game and we’ve seen that continue this preseason. He has good hands and plays a fearless game, I think he’s a natural fit to do the dirty work for the second unit.

There are plenty of ways that the Oilers could go, and we could debate each of these questions all day, but the reality is that for the Oilers to be in contention for a playoff spot, they’ll need more production from their power play.



  • TruthHurts98

    Their second PP unit is abysmal. Wondering if this coaching staff has a clue how to run a PP. The first unit needs JP or Rattie on it. If Bouchard is making the team put him on one of the units or there is no reason for him to make the team right? If they keep these units like this to start the season I’ll be worried that they won’t have much success. I haven’t been impressed with Reider, Kassian or Caggiula this preseason. None of them should be ‘locks’ to make the team IMHO.

      • daryl

        Its just that Bouchard shouldn’t make the team and if they hold him past 9 games we will know nothing has changed with regard to our development of young players.

          • Spydyr

            I have no issue with giving Bouchard a taste of life in the NHL if he earns it. It will show him what is required to compete at the NHL level and give him a good idea on what areas of his game he needs to work on. That being said as soon is it starts to hurt the team back he goes.

          • Spydyr

            Who said it was about “giving players taste of the good life” I was talking about the skills, attitude and commitment required to succeed in the NHL. Winning includes now and in the future. One of the biggest mistakes the Katz regime has made over and over again is worrying about winning now and screw the future. Giving a high end prospect a taste of what is required to play in the NHL is a good thing for the future.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Unfortunately, I have to agree with your comment on the #2 PP unit. I might solve the problem by leaving one (or 2) of Connor, RNH, or Drai out for the full 2 mins in games when the Oilers are behind. These guys are all young and can easily pull a 2min shift. Other than that, even the units up a bit more. I am not sure that Benning-Puljujarvi-Strome-Caggiula- Rieder will strike much fear into the opposing PK. Maybe I am wrong…

    • daryl

      I agree Kassian or Caggiula have not been very good and surprisingly either has Reider. We need to start to shift away from nonperforming players and move on.

      • OilersBro

        So long as Kassian stops taking bad penalties, I think he has a place on this team. He’s one of our most versatile athletes in terms of speed, size, and strength. Great for killing penalties.

  • OilersBro

    I’d love to see McDavid, Nuge, Lucic, Pulu, and Klef on one and Draisaitl, Yamo, Strome, Reider, and (Bear, Benning or Bouch contingent on who makes the team) on the other.
    It mitigates the risk of the top line being fatigued after killing a penalty. Gives a forward to QB each line (McD and Drai), a right shot forward shooter, and two guys on each line for faceoffs.

  • Spydyr

    If Yamamoto makes the team have him replace Caggiula. This seems like a no brainer. Nurse deserves a look one one of the powerplay units and if Rattie keeps it up he does as well.

        • dsanchez1973

          The defence isn’t involved in battling for loose pucks on the boards on the PP, and should rarely be skating the puck into the zone. As for his shot, he’s averaging less than 1 goal every 16 games in his career. The defence in a 4F1D PP is primarily a distributor of the puck, and that’s not really Darnell’s #1 strength.

          • Spydyr

            So you are saying there is no puck battles on the boards that defencemen are involved in on the power play? Yeah, defenceman never pinch on the powerplay or fight for a loose buck along the boards knew the blueline. There are plenty of puck battles. He does not have to skate the puck into the zone to join the rush or drop into the slot from the point.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I’ll be so bold as to say, I like it the way it is… I believe we won’t need the second PP line, if you know what I mean…
    One can dream…

  • ubermiguel

    Didn’t we end up with about a million short-handed chances against using the 1-3-1 last year? When things are going bad I say simplify. 2-1-2 or Umbrella until the power play achieves at least mediocrity.

    • Redbird62

      Oddly enough, according to Naturalstattrick.com, the 2017-18 Oilers PP gave up among the fewest shorthanded chances against. Some of that is due to being on the PP less than anyone else, but their ratio of scoring chances for and against on the PP was almost 90%. They gave up 5 shorthanded goals, which much closer to lowest number of 3 by 3 teams versus the 11 given up by the Avalanche and Islanders.

  • toprightcorner

    If all of the top unit is on the PP together, McDavid will be on the left wall, leaving a one-timer for every forward.

    When all but McDavid change for the second half of the PP, McDavid moves back to the right wall and still has 4 one-timer options.

    If McDavid or Nuge draw a penalty at the end of a long shift, Draisaitl plays the right wall with the 2nd unit and there are 4 one-timer options.

    Also, if McDavid or Nuge draw a penalty at the end of a long shift, after 30-45 seconds, they are back on the ice and still play most of the PP time.

    If the entire top line starts the PP, only McDavid would likely get most of the entire 2 minutes, meaning when the others switch up after 90 seconds, the 2nd line could come out right after the PP is over,but considering many top line players are on the back half of the PK, that isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be.

    I like this PP layout, it is the opposite of Washington who has all righties and even though everyone on the ice knows Ovie is getting the pass, they still make it work as one of the best PP units over the past 10 years

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Rightshot, Leftshot,… whatever?
      Whatver happened to the accurate, onetimer, backhand?
      Just don’t see that shot much anymore?
      “Soft pass over to a quick hard backhand”
      It’s the hardest shot to stop for any goalie. I say practice the heck out of that shot & any second line PP will be effective.

  • GP440

    Yaremchuck!!! You and your flunkies at TSN haven’t a clue what you’re talking about!! The only person from TSN 1260 that makes any sense is Greggor!! I’ve played and followed the Oilers since they came to be. I must say, I do get a laugh from you and your friends speculation!! 95% of Oiler fans probably knew the team would be where they are now. I don’t care where the Oilers finish, just as long as they play hard the whole way!! G.O.G.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I would say every viable NHL team would play their top players on the first PP Line?
      Crosby, Malkin, Kessel… or San jose’s Burns, Karlsson, Couture, Pavelski, Thorton…
      I would hope that Edmonton would retaliate with their top players?
      They’d be stupid not to. As I said earlier, the first line will be all they need…

  • tkfisher

    Firstly, it’s simply to open up one timers. Have the majority of the powerplay run through the left wall. With all left shot options, that means every single player on the ice without the puck is open to a one timer. That was the biggest issue last year. Having left shots on the ice and running the play through the right wall.

  • sweetweb

    Tyler, I don’t know why you complaining about the 2nd PP unit. The best powerplay teams last year regular stack their 1st unite. For instance Pittsburgh has Malkin, Letang, Crosby, Hornquist and Kessel on PP1. You should see their PP2, pretty awful.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Powerplay option # 1 should be to score a power play goal. Option 2 should be to not give up a shorthanded goal. Option 3 should be to generate some momentum.

  • Consultant

    If they want the first unit to go over a minute (great idea) then I would advocate for 2 dmen on the second unit, when the PP ends it is nice to have 2 dmen on the ice.
    Also agree that they have to have a right shot on the first unit… Seems crazy not to…

  • match16

    If McDavid plays PP1 on the left side, it would be similar to what the Jets run. They have Wheeler, Buff, Laine, Sheif (all RH) loaded on one unit. Wheeler has the puck on the right wall and has options of Buff at the point, Laine far side, Sheif in the slot all for the quick one timer. I would assume the Oilers will be doing something similar with McDavid on the left.

  • Redbird62

    The Penguins 2017-2018 PP unit the second highest success ratio at 26.2% since 1990 behind only the 2012-2013 Capitals who cashed in at 26.8% but for 48 games. They did this with Malkin Crosby, Kessel (unarguably their top 3 offensive forwards) and Hornqvist (the net front presence) on their top unit with either Letang or Schultz as the point man. The 4 forwards scored 50 PP goals. I assume Letang’s 4 PP markers were probably scored with this unit as well totaling 54. The rest of the team had 14 PP goals combined. The second unit was primarily Sheary, Rust and Guentzel – with Brassard added in at the deadline. The Capitals in 2012-13 also loaded their top PP unit with their best 3 forwards as well.
    I’d be curious to hear from the people who object to the loading up of the PP by the Oilers as to why they think the Penguins and Capital strategy would not work here. Maybe the objection will be because there is no right hand shot, but that is a different criticism than not loading up one unit. I will be curious to see how the unit performs in the next 4 games before passing any judgement.