These five valuable role players make the most of their time
Here are the five most productive players who play less than 15 minutes per game
Worthies such as Chad LaRose didn't make it due to time on ice or a minus rating
The top five are productive and versatile with a dash of clutch, like Max Talbot
Everyone knows the importance of role players to a team's overall success. We don't talk about them much -- especially at this time of year as we load up our fantasy teams with offensive talent. But after the great response to the piece here a few weeks ago that focused on Pittsburgh's Max Talbot, I dug a little deeper to see who were the five most productive players in limited minutes.
That meant averaging less than 15 minutes per game, being a plus player and scoring at least double digits in goals. Those stringent parameters left many deserving players out of the top five. Both Colby Armstrong and Chad LaRose didn't qualify because they both averaged just over 15 minutes a game last season. Armstrong reached the 20-goal plateau and was impressively a plus-player for the Atlanta Thrashers. LaRose likewise edged over the 15-minute mark, but his 17 even-strength goals in his total of 19 can't be ignored.
David Clarkson of the Devils might have headed up the list, with 17 goals and 164 PIM in less than 13 minutes a night, but he was minus-1 last season. Same with Matt Cooke of the Penguins and his 13 tallies and 101 PIM. At even on the plus/minus scale, he fell out of contention.
Other noteworthy candidates on my original list of less notable contributors who fell off for failing to meet the TOI guideline of being on the ice for less than a quarter of a game included Rene Bourque and his 20 even-strength goals; David Bolland at plus-19; Alex Burrows with 28 goals -- 24 at ES, four short-handed -- and Manny Malhotra with his 58% face-off efficiency (a major reason the Sharks added him to their roster last week).
With that in mind, here are my top five role-player contributors:
5. Kyle Brodziak, Wild
Playing just 12:43 per game, Brodziak netted 11 goals -- three of which were game-winners. He won 51.6% of his face-offs and over his two seasons in Edmonton, exhibited remarkable consistency. He signed with the Wild for this season, but a change of scenery shouldn't effect his night-in, night-out unsung contributions.
4. Tyler Kennedy, Penguins
Along with Talbot, Cooke, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, Kennedy provided the Penguins with an emerging core of versatile role players. For his part, Kennedy scored 15 goals -- all at even strength -- three being GWG. He handled face-offs effectively as well, winning at a 53.8% clip. That flexibility to play the wing, but take draws in certain situations adds to Kennedy's overall value while skating less than 14 minutes a night.
3. Maxim Lapierre, Canadiens
Another 15-goal scorer who plays in all situations, Lapierre posted a plus-9 rating while handling face-offs at a 53.25% effectiveness mark. He is typically cast as a checking center for the Habs, but has enough offense in his game to see spot duty in the top-six, as evidenced by his steady if modest increase each year in point totals.
2. Curtis Glencross, Flames
Glencross scored goals in all three situations last year -- even strength, powerplay, and short-handed. His 13-27-40 totals far eclipsed his previous NHL totals and his three game-winners gave him four for his career. More than anything, though, he has shown steady progress as a dependable winger -- the kind of player coaches turn to because they know they can count on the right play being made in a given situation.
1. Andrew Ladd, Blackhawks
Ladd was the most productive player outside the NHL's top 100 scorers who didn't have a single power play goal. He totaled 49 points -- a 10 point gain over his previous campaign. In fact, all of his goal scoring came at even strength, which goes a long way in explaining his plus-26 rating -- third best on the team. It also means that the Blackhawks are deep up front and winning match-ups most nights outside the top two lines. Ladd was a big part of that match-up success.
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