It should come as no surprise the Barons lead the American Hockey League in power play percentage.
Oklahoma City's power play features the same components that helped the Edmonton Oilers finish third in the NHL in power play percentage last season.
With Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins anchoring the power play, the Barons have averaged one goal a game with the man advantage.
“If you look at the good teams in the (NHL) they usually have pretty good special teams,” Hall said. “You might not have to win it five-on-five. You can win with your power play.”
The Oilers/Barons power play is young but loaded with talent.
Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft.
Nugent-Hopkins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft.
Eberle, an NHL All-Star last season, was a first-round pick in 2009.
All three have exceptional hockey IQs. Combine that with superb skating and stick handling, and it's a dynamic combination when opponents have a man in the penalty box.
“That's huge for the Oilers,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “There's a stat where 75 or 80 percent of games are won or lost on special teams. Other than the first three games, our power play has been pretty consistent. They have it going pretty good right now.”
Even though they were the youngest power play unit in the NHL last season, Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have game-changing chemistry that sometimes takes years to develop.
“When you can see two or three passes ahead, not just the simple pass, but a pass to set someone up three plays ahead is what makes them so good,” Nelson said. “They see what's developing. That's how they generate offense.”
The Oilers/Barons' power play is even more potent with Justin Schultz, a rookie defenseman making his pro debut in Oklahoma City during the lockout.
Possessing quarterback-like skills, Schultz (43 points) is tied for the AHL scoring lead with Eberle. Nearly half of Schultz's league leading 27 assists have come on the power play.
Armed with a powerful wrist shot inside the blue line, Schultz also has scored 16 goals, a high total for a defenseman. One reason many analysts believe he'll develop into a perennial NHL All-Star is he's a defenseman that can attack the net like a forward.
“He's so talented,” Eberle said. “Schultzy is Schultzy. He's the type of (defenseman) every team would love to have, especially on their power play.”
Ralph Kruger, named Edmonton's head coach last summer, was the Oilers special teams coach last season. Edmonton improved from 27th in power play percentage to third under the former Swiss national coach whose top priority is outworking opponents.
“When we start to get too fancy we start shooting the puck,” Eberle said. “Obviously, we have a lot of skill, which helps. But I think the biggest thing is you have to win battles, especially after you shoot the puck originally. A lot of stuff comes out of second opportunities.”
There are subtle advantages to having an elite power play. Part of an opponent's game plan is to minimize minutes in the penalty box.
“For sure,” Nelson said. “Teams will want to play disciplined. They don't want to be idiots. They won't take as many chances because they won't want you to have power play opportunities.”
The Oilers haven't made the playoffs the past six seasons. One of the league's top power play units could help end the drought whenever the NHL returns.
And it's a power play unit that should continue to improve.
Nugent-Hopkins is 19. Hall just turned 21. Eberle and Schultz are 22.
“We've developed some chemistry with some good movement,” Eberle said. “If one guy makes a play down to another guy you know what spot you're supposed to be. The more we play with each other we're only going to get better.”