Oklahoma City Barons: Barons have deadly power-play unit

Games can be won and lost on special teams. OKC leads the American Hockey League in power-play success rate.
by Michael Baldwin Published: December 30, 2012
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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.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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