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NHL.com Ranks Yandle Among Best Power-Play Specialists

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

NEW YORK -- Who are the best 14 players in the NHL at each position as teams prepare for the start of the 2014-15 season? Arpon Basu, Brian Compton, Corey Masisak and Dan Rosen have cast their votes and the result is NHL.com's "Top 14 for '14-15" project. Each first-place vote is worth 14 points, each second-place vote is worth 13, continuing in descending order to each 14th-place vote being worth one. There are two tiebreakers. First, which player appeared on more ballots? Second, which player had the highest individual ranking? If the voting was exactly the same for each player, it was declared a tie. Does NHL.com's list match your rankings for the best players in the League entering the 2014-15 campaign?

Photo by Getty Images.

A good power play typically has the same characteristics, including a clean zone entry and setup, a quarterback, a go-between option from the half-wall, a triggerman and someone in front to do the dirty work.

The players who make up a good power play either perform one of those tasks at an elite level or are simply really good at a bunch of them.

For example, nobody shoots the puck from the point on the power play with the combination of accuracy and power like Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. But they also bring the puck into the zone to serve as the quarterback.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos can score on hard one-timers even when they're off balance. They have such quick releases and heavy shots that it can be impossible for a goaltender to get over in time to make the save.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux and New York Islanders captain John Tavares work the half-wall like magicians, but they can move up to the point or down to the goal line and be just as effective.

Defensemen Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Keith Yandle of the Arizona Coyotes usually bring the puck up the ice and work as the quarterback, but they're not afraid to pinch in deep to make a play. All of them have heavy shots.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Swiss Army-knife forward Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks are versatile enough to excel from just about anywhere on the power play. Pavelski can seemingly play any position on the ice save for goaltender.

Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has become a load to handle in front of the net by creating room for himself with his aggressive arms and lanky but strong frame.

The aforementioned players were voted by NHL.com writers as the top-14 power-play specialists in the League today because they are elite performers in that regard. The list, featuring some history about the players, is below:

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, 56 points (4 first-place votes)

2013-14: 24 power-play goals, 39 power-play points

Ovechkin was a unanimous selection for first place. He has led the NHL in power-play goals for two straight seasons, and his 24 power-play goals last season were two more than anybody else's two-season total from 2012-14 (Chris Kunitz is second with 22). His 53 power-play goals in the past three seasons are 15 more than anybody else (James Neal is second with 38). More than 35 percent of Ovechkin's career goals have come on the power play (151 of 422).

2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 45 points

2013-14: 5 PPGs, 31 PPPs

Karlsson is one of the most electrifying players on the power play because of his ability to carry the puck out of his own zone and go end-to-end in a flash. He was tied for first among defensemen and sixth in the League in power-play points last season. Karlsson was second among defensemen and seventh overall in power-play points in 2011-12, when he won the Norris Trophy and finished the season with 78 points, 25 more than any other defenseman.

3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, 44 points

2013-14: 9 PPGs, 13 PPPs

Stamkos is one of the most effective power-play scorers because of his one-timer from the left circle. He doesn't always shoot it, but he is always dangerous from that spot. The Lightning were 20.4 percent (28-for-137) on the power play with Stamkos in the lineup last season; they were 16.5 percent (22-for-133) without him. Had Stamkos played in 82 games last season he would have been on pace for 20 power-play goals.

4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, 43 points

2013-14: 11 PPGs, 38 PPPs

Crosby is best on the strong-side half-wall, where he can play quarterback by surveying the scene and distributing the puck. The Penguins' power play under former coach Dan Bylsma ran through Crosby and was one of the most effective power plays during the past two seasons, clicking at 23.9 percent. Only the Capitals have had a better power play in that same span (24.6 percent).

5. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, 41 points

2013-14: 6 PPGs, 44 PPPs

Backstrom is very much like Crosby, the eyes of the Capitals' power play. He typically plays on the half-wall and usually looks for Ovechkin with a seam pass. He can also find Troy Brouwer in front or Mike Green on the point. Backstrom led the League with 44 power-play points last season and he's second behind Ovechkin with 62 in the past two seasons.

6. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers, 35 points

2013-14: 7 PPGs, 37 PPPs

Giroux is the engine for the Flyers' first power-play unit. He is the reason the Flyers were one of only three teams to have five of the top-50 power-play scorers last season (Pittsburgh and Washington were the other two). Giroux was fourth in power-play points last season, but he has the most power-play points (96) in the NHL over the past three seasons.

7. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens, 28 points

2013-14: 4 PPGs, 23 PPPs

Subban was second behind Ovechkin in power-play minutes last season (382:16) and was seventh among defensemen with 23 power-play points. He was relatively unlucky with a 4.3 shooting percentage in 5-on-4 power plays (4-for-93), according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. Subban leads all defensemen with 49 power-play points in the past two seasons.

8. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators, 22 points

2013-14: 12 PPGs, 26 PPPs

Weber was first among defensemen with a career-best 12 power-play goals last season, and he leads all defensemen with 25 power-play goals in the past three seasons. His best weapon is his blistering shot, but he can bring the puck up the ice and set up plays for teammates. He's an all-around effective player on the power play who possesses an elite skill (his shot).

9. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, 20 points

2013-14: 16 PPGs, 31 PPPs

Pavelski broke out as a scorer last season; his 41 goals topped his previous career-best by 10, and his 16 power-play goals were five more than he had ever scored in an NHL season. A big reason he was so effective on the power play was he converted on 25 percent of his shots in 5-on-4 situations (15-for-60), according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. He was also effective passing the puck; he had the first assist on 11 other 5-on-4 power play goals.

Yandle

10. Keith Yandle, Arizona Coyotes, 16 points

2013-14: 3 PPGs, 31 PPPs

Yandle has quietly become one of the most effective players on the power play in Arizona. It finally showed up in a strong team power play last season as the Coyotes were fourth in the NHL at 19.9 percent thanks in large part to Yandle. He led all defensemen and was third overall with 28 power-play assists last season.

11. John Tavares, New York Islanders, 15 points

2013-14: 8 PPGs, 25 PPPs

Tavares was 17th in the NHL last season with 25 power-play points despite missing the final 22 games of the season with a knee injury. He was on pace for almost 35 power-play points, which would have been good for fifth behind Backstrom, Ovechkin, Crosby and Giroux.

12. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, 14 points

2013-14: 7 PPGs, 30 PPPs

Malkin was tied for second with Ovechkin in power-play points per game last season (0.50). He finished eighth in power-play points despite playing in only 60 games. He was seventh in assists with 23, including 15 first assists, third in the League behind Backstrom and Yandle (16 each). He is averaging 0.47 points per game on the power play in his career (245 points in 518 games). He had 121 points in 242 games in his first three seasons (2006-08).

13. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings, 10 points

2013-14: 6 PPGs, 16 PPPs

Doughty's power-play production spiked in his second season (31 points), but has since been steady at around 15 points per season (10 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season). Doughty, though, is more about possession on the power play. He carries the puck into the zone and serves as the quarterback. He has a heavy shot to go along with excellent passing skills and vision.

14. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers, 6 points

2013-14: 15 PPGs, 24 PPPs

Simmonds has become one of the best net-front players on the power play in the NHL. He does the dirty work on the Flyers' power play, and has cashed in for 32 goals in the past three seasons, including a career-best 15 last season. He scores the majority of his goals from the slot, mostly off rebounds and deflections.

Others receiving votes: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (5 points); Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (4 points); Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings (3 points); Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (3 points); Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (3 points); Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins (2 points); Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (2 points); James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets (2 points); Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets (1 point).

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