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Fantasy hockey: Nine players to help your power play right now

A staple category in many fantasy leagues, power-play production can mean the difference in finishing top of the table or wrapping up the season in mid-pack mediocrity. It isn’t a category to neglect. So here’s a round-up of fantasy performers, worth targeting via trade, if not straight-up available – not overwhelmingly spoken for in ESPN.com leagues – who provide that extra bit of power-play pop. Or, at least have the potential to do so.

Josh Bailey, RW/LW, New York Islanders (58.7 percent): For whatever reason, the rest of the league is behaving itself much better against the Islanders than versus all other competition. Through 14 games, the Isles have been awarded only 24 opportunities with the man-advantage – a mere fraction of the league-leading Canucks’ 63 kicks at the special teams’ can. For further perspective, outside of the Lightning (36), every other team has had at least 41 power-play opportunities. Anyway, knowing such matters eventually somewhat even out, let’s turn to those skating on the top unit when the until-now rare chance has presented itself. Like Bailey, who leads his squad with a goal and two assists with the extra skater. The top-line winger also has 12 points on the year, half of them goals. Oh yeah, and Barry Trotz’ squad has won 10-straight.

Jason Zucker, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild (57.2 percent): After the Wild’s wretched and drama-riddled start to the season – admittedly a step or two above wretched right now – Zucker appears to have settled in a bit, scoring a goal and four assists in five games. His role on Minnesota’s top line and power play also assures an increase in points earned with the man-advantage, already counting at four. We’ll re-evaluate if/when he gets traded, but for now it’s in the zippy 27-year-old’s best interest to make the most of his current assignment. He has a place in deeper fantasy leagues.

Erik Haula, LW/RW, Carolina Hurricanes (57.1 percent): Member of the Hurricanes’ top power play, Haula has 11 points through 13 games, nearly half of them counting with the extra skater. He also leads his squad with eight goals altogether. Shelved right now with a so-labelled minor knee issue – yeah, the same knee that cost him most of last year as member of the Knights – Haula merits serious fantasy consideration if he quickly returns to form without issue. Keep an eye.

Jaden Schwartz, LW, St. Louis Blues (49.3 percent): Understanding the turnoff provided by lesser numbers earned this past regular season, I still can’t quite wrap my head around Schwartz’ current unpopular fantasy standing. A near point-per-game contributor only two years ago, he’s skating on the Blues’ top line and power play, potting 14 points through 17 contests. Chugging along nicely, even with Vladimir Tarasenko out, the 27-year-old winger is clearly springing off his Stanley Cup-winning efforts which netted 12 goals and eight assists in 26 games. Unavailable in all of my leagues, I’d be all over him if that wasn’t the case.

Nazem Kadri, C, Colorado Avalanche (45.3 percent): A staple on Colorado’s No. 1 special teams unit, with or without Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog in the lineup, Kadri has four power-play points – nine altogether – to show for his first month of the season. Still settling into his new Denver digs, the former Leafs center sports 30-goal/60-point potential with the Avalanche, near mimicking his run in Toronto back in 2016-17. It’s easy to envision the Avs’ second-line center going on a point-per-game tear in a month or two from now. Maybe get in there before then.

Ryan Strome, C/RW, New York Rangers (23.8 percent): Riding the Strome wagon hard of late, I’m not about to disembark anytime soon. Between filling in for Mika Zibanejad, still listed day-to-day, and centering his own scoring unit, Strome has five goals and six assists in eight games, including four points with the extra skater. Recognizing the gaggle of gifted wingers on hand to play within the Rangers’ top-six, again, even once Zibanejad is fit to return, Strome is poised to easily bust through the 60-point mark for the first time in his career. This – this – is the guy managers eventually regret not picking up when he was readily available.

Esa Lindell, D, Dallas Stars (56.3 percent): First winding his way onto the top unit in place of a fourth forward, Lindell will undoubtedly stick around a while with fellow defenseman John Klingberg out hurt (two weeks, minimum). Logging a power-play assist during Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Avalanche suggests the 25-year-old blueliner is about to make the most of this prominent post. Not entirely out of character, production-wise, considering he collected 32 points last year. And heads up: the Stars are getting their act together, winning four-straight and seven of their past eight.

Justin Schultz, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (26.9 percent): While we await word on the severity of Kris Letang‘s lower-body injury, fantasy managers in all variety of leagues should give Schultz a good, long look. Even with Letang active, the Penguins’ No. 2 offensive D-man has already been seeing top power play minutes. A lot more will be asked of him if Letang is sidelined for any period of time. Floundering right now, Pittsburgh’s power play will right itself before long, and Schultz has a history of rising to productive occasion when called upon.

Sami Vatanen, D, New Jersey Devils (9.9 percent): Once again, Vatanen reminds us that, regardless of other offensive-defensemen in his team’s mix – most often bigger names with perceived higher ceilings – he’ll still chip in quietly, often with the extra skater. Supplanting P.K. Subban on Jersey’s top unit of late, the 28-year-old has three goals and three assists in six games. He’s also seeing an un-Vatanen-like 24-plus minutes per contest. Fantasy managers may as well exploit this surge before it peters out.

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