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Watching Rocky Thompson’s PP Breakouts with an NHL Coach

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The San Jose Sharks have run two common power play breakouts over the last two years.

There’s the two-man drop pass:

Usually, it’s Erik Karlsson (65) as the quarterback, who drops the puck back to the two forwards coming from behind with speed. The forward who receives the puck usually passes.

Then there’s the “five man” swing:

On this breakout, the entire power play unit comes up the ice together — once again, Karlsson is the focal point, as it’s incumbent on him to get the opposition’s F1 penalty killer (that’s the PK’er closest to the puck) off balance, then hit an open Sharks forward in stride with a pass.

You can see both breakouts, back to back, in this January 2020 game:

Enter Rocky Thompson.

“He’s strong with his power play philosophies. Lots of different breakouts,” said Chicago Wolves assistant coach Bob Nardella of Thompson, his head coach from 2017-20. “Some of the teams we played, not many teams vary with their power play breakouts. But we did. He was very creative with that.

“Speaking for my league, Milwaukee, they had two breakouts. Iowa. They stuck to it and they were very good, those teams.”

With that in mind, I re-watched Wolves games to get an idea about the breakouts that Thompson might incorporate into the San Jose Sharks power play — if and when he joins the Sharks.

I focused on Erik Brannstrom’s time with the Wolves, as he was probably Thompson’s most adept QB in Chicago.

A former NHL coach added: “If you don’t have the one guy to carry the puck, he’s average? I can tell you that you’re going to be struggling to find the guy to carry the puck all year.”

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