What exactly constitutes an NHL power play specialist? Well, it’s a combination of things really. This includes the obvious criteria such as goals, assists and points, but it also includes the sixth sense of knowing when to pass and when to shoot. You need to possess hockey sense and vision while having the capability to give and receive tape-to-tape passes in the blink of an eye. True power play specialists are also able to display consistency year after year and the total number of extra-strength goals they’re on the ice for during their careers is also a telling sign.
Of course, playing with good teammates also helps out. With five players on the ice and three of them typically picking up a point on a goal, you can still be an effective power play specialist without it always showing up in the scoring stats. This list combines all the ingredients of a good power play expert and features the top 15 power play specialists in the history of the NHL based on them. Not surprisingly, 14 of the 15 players are in the Hall of Fame with the other being a sure bet once he retires.
15. Jaromir Jagr
Unfortunately, the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr may have played his last game in the NHL as the 46-year-old was recently sent to the Czech League by the Calgary Flames. Jagr’s extremely hard to knock off the puck due to his excellent leg strength and this served him well in front of the net when his team had the man advantage. The NHL’s second leading scorer all-time with 1,921 points scored 610 of them on the power play to rank 10th all time in PP points. This includes 217 goals and 393 assists which sees him ranked tied for 11th with Mike Gartner in PP goals. Jagr was on the ice for 2,499 goals-for during his career with 888 of them being with the extra man which represents 35.5 per cent. He hit double figures in PP goals 10 times during his career and added another two dozen PP markers in the playoffs.
14. Dave Andreychuk
There has never been a better power play goal scorer than big Dave Andreychuk as he leads the league all-time in extra-man tallies with 274. Andreychuk would plant his 6-foot-4-inch, 220 lb frame in front of the net and pick up the garbage. He also added 293 assists for 567 power play points out of his career total of 1,338 points. Andreychuk managed to score in double figures 16 times with the man advantage including seasons of 21, 28 and 32 PP goals. His record may not last forever though as Alexander Ovechkin was just 52 PP goals behind him as of Valentine’s Day, 2018. Still, Andreychuk didn’t rely only on the power play to score goals as this is a guy who found the back of the net 640 times. Seventeen of his 43 playoff goals were with the extra man and he helped Tampa win the Stanley Cup in 2003/04.
13. Mario Lemieux
The great Mario Lemieux could do it all regardless if his team was shorthanded, at even strength or on the power play. The Pittsburgh captain was a natural for the power play due to his size and immense talent and didn’t disappoint in this area. Mario ranks fifth all-time in PP points with 701 of them coming on a seventh-best 236 goals and 465 assists. He was also on the ice for 944 PP goals-for by the Penguins out of 2,165 for his career. Lemieux racked up PP goals in double figures a dozen times and twice scored 31 in a season to lead the league in 1988/89 and again in 1995/96. He kept up the pace in the playoffs as well with another 29 PP goals in 107 games to help Pittsburgh win a pair of Stanley Cups.
12. Steve Yzerman
Former Detroit Red Wings’ skipper Steve Yzerman was a fine goalscorer throughout his illustrious career, but he often played the role of playmaker while his team enjoyed the man advantage. Stevie Y managed to net 202 PP markers and set up his teammates another 393 times for 595 extra-man points. His goals rank 18th all-time while his PP points are 11th-best in league history. The 946 career PP goals he was on the ice for are also ranked 11th, tied with Brian Leetch. Yzerman hit double figures nine times in PP goals and contributed another 26 in the postseason to help Detroit win three Stanley Cups. He wasn’t really an explosive power play point getter, but was very consistent year after year as he quietly went about his job with the man advantage.
11. Brian Leetch
The first defenseman to show up here as a power play quarterback is Brian Leetch, who made a name for himself as one of the best American-born players ever while playing for the New York Rangers. Leetch chipped in with 111 PP goals and 431 assists for 542 points, which rank 21st all-time and seventh-best for a defender. He was also tied with Steve Yzerman for being on the ice for an 11th best 946 PP goals-for and led the league in this category twice. Leetch was more known for his passing skills than for a rocket shot from the point and this is how he picked up the majority of his extra-man assists. He set up teammates 45 times alone in 1990/91. Still, his 111 goals are seventh best for a blue liner and he did hit double figures four times, including 17 in the 1993/94 campaign.
10. Marcel Dionne
Center Marcel Dionne may have been small in stature at just 5-feet-9-inches tall, but he was an enormous goalscorer at even strength and with the man advantage. Dionne racked up 234 PP goals and 409 assists for 643 points in a career which totaled 1,771 points. This ranks him number seven all-time in goals and eighth in points. Dionne hit double figures in PP goals 13 times, including seasons of 22 and 23. Sadly, Dionne generally played for weak teams during his career with Detroit, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers between 1971 and 1989. This resulted in just 49 playoff games played, but he still contributed with another 11 power play markers. Dionne’s expertise on the power play resulted in 961 goals for his teams, which ranks 10th best.
9. Joe Sakic
Center Joe Sakic was similar to Steve Yzerman as he was also more of a setup man on the power play rather than a pure finisher. He could still put the puck in the net as his 205 PP goals attest to, but his 426 assists make up the bulk of his 631 points with the extra man. Sakic’s goals rank 16th all-time while his points are good for eighth best. As mentioned earlier though, points are just one factor of a power play specialist and Sakic ranks ninth in NHL history for being on the ice for 965 PP goals-for. He had 12 seasons of double-digit PP markers, peaking with 20 in 1992/93 while with the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques. Sakic’s 27 PP goals in his 172 postseason outings also helped Colorado win a pair of Stanley Cups.
8. Larry Murphy
Toronto Maple Leafs fans embarrassed themselves from 1995 to 1997 with their merciless booing of Larry Murphy who scored 100 points for the team in 151 games. Murphy was one of the highest-scoring defenders in NHL history and still ended his career with a mark of plus-200. And let’s remind Leafs fans the hall of famer was a three-time All Star who won four Stanley Cups. Murphy’s skills resulted in 114 power play goals and 433 assists for 547 points. His goals may rank just 127th best all-time, but his points are 20th best. In addition, just five blue liners managed more power play points and only seven players in history were on the ice for more than his 1,032 PP goals-for. Murphy knew how to run an efficient power play for all six NHL teams he played for and scored another 20 in the playoffs.
7. Nicklas Lidstrom
Swedish standout defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom played his entire career in Detroit and was a staple on the power play for all 20 of his fine NHL seasons. Lidstrom ranks 12th all-time in PP points at 590 which consist of 132 goals and 458 assists. His goals are fifth-best all-time for a defenseman and 81st overall. Lidstrom was on the ice for 1,046 PP goals-for while with the Red Wings, which is the seventh most in league history and led the league in 2000/01. He obviously knew what he was doing back there even though he wasn’t particularly known for an overpowering shot from the point. Forty one of his 64 assists in 2005/06 came with the man advantage and his 30 career PP goals helped the Wings hoist four Stanley Cups during his time in the Motor City.
6. Phil Housley
Many fans may not realize just how good the current coach of the Buffalo Sabres Phil Housley was a player. The American-born defenseman finished his career with 1,232 points in 1,495 games and this included 612 of them on the power play. Housley accumulated 129 goals and 483 helpers with the man advantage which ranks him ninth on the all-time list and the fourth-best blue liner. In total, he was on the ice for 1,069 PP goals-for, which stands him at number six in history in that category and led the league in 1992/93. Housley was definitely an offense-first type of defenseman and chipped in with 96 PP assists from 1991 to 1993. He wasn’t known for a big shot either and he recorded at least 20 PP assists in 14 of his 21 NHL seasons.
5. Paul Coffey
Most fans probalby expected Paul Coffey to be on this list and there was no way to leave him off of it. Coffey helped his teammates score a total of 1,147 power play goals, which ranks fifth all-time and third-best for a defenseman. Of these 1,147 goals Coffey registered points on 664 of them with 135 goals and 529 assists. This gives him the sixth-most PP points in league history and the third-most for a defender. His goals are also the fourth most on the power play from the blue line even though he didn’t have a cannon for a shot. Coffey’s strongest asset was his effortless skating ability and he was second to none when it came going coast to coast. He had six seasons of double-digit PP goals and twice registered over 45 assists. He had more career goals, assists and points at even strength though.
4. Ron Francis
It’s true Ron Francis had a hall of fame career and is the fifth-leading scorer in NHL history with 1,798 points in 1,731 contests, but he’s never really enjoyed the accolades the other big stars have. He’s still an extremely underrated player after all these years. When it came to playing with the man advantage, Francis was certainly a specialist with the third-most PP points in history at 727. Francis’ pinpoint passing skills were his strength as he set up his teammates 539 times with the extra man and put the puck in the net 188 times himself. He was on the ice for 1,152 PP goals-for, to rank fourth best in history. Francis scored in double digits on the power play in eight seasons and twice registered over 40 assists.
3. Wayne Gretzky
Hands up if you thought the Great One would top this list? Well, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer is also the tops when it comes to PP points as he mustered up 890 of them, which is 129 more than the next player Ray Bourque. Gretzky found the back of the net 204 times with the extra man, which perhaps surprisingly ranks just 17th overall. He did hit double digits 10 times though and peaked with 20 PP goals in 1983/84 while with Edmionton to lead the league. He was definitely more of a playmaker than a scorer and that shows with his NHL-best 686 PP assists. He notched at least 40 helpers seven times, hitting a high of 51 with Los Angeles in 1990/91. The elite center was on the ice for 1,164 PP goals during his career which ranks as the third-best in history. Gretzky’s 34 postseason PP markers also helped him win four Stanley Cups.
2. Al MacInnis
When it comes to history’s all-time hardest shooters, former defenseman Al MacInnis ranks pretty high on the list. This helped him score 166 goals and 556 assists on the power play for 722 points to rank fourth-best overall and second for defensemen. He also stands number two in PP goals for a blue liner and added another 26 in the playoffs. If his shot didn’t go in then it was usually too hot for the goalie to handle and one of his teammates would bury the rebound.Many opponents would alter their penalty-killing formation against MacInnis to try and take his booming shot away. This would often open up more room for his teammates though. MacInnis celebrated the second-most, PP goals-for in history while on the ice with 1,189 of them and led the league in that category in 1989/90 at 94. He hit double digits five times on the power play and registered at least 40 assists twice.
1. Ray Bourque
The nod for the best and most consistent power play specialist in NHL history goes to former Boston and Colorado defenseman Ray Bourque. Since power plays are generally operated through and quarterbacked from the point it makes sense for a blue liner to take the honor. Bourque registered the second-most PP assists and points in history and the most goals, assists and points for a defenseman. In addition, he was on the ice for 1,272 PP goals-for, which also ranks first all-time. Bourque was the ultimate power play expert and was rewarded for his elite hockey sense with 173 goals and 588 assists for 761 points. He hit double digits in goals five times and had over 30 assists on seven occasions. Bourque scored 15 of his 41 playoff goals on the power play and helped the Avalanche capture the Stanley Cup in his final season in 2000/01.