NHL Playoffs 2012: 8 Rising Stars of This Year's Postseason

Alison MyersCorrespondent IMay 4, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 8 Rising Stars of This Year's Postseason

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    In each postseason, each team has one player who comes out of nowhere to make an impact. Sometimes, these players were already integral parts of the regular season who are making themselves further known in the playoffs.

    But other times, these players were only small parts of the first 82 games, and now, they are playing for a future roster spot, more ice time or a contract extension. 

    This slideshow recognizes the players who are first getting into the NHL or may have been around a while, but until now, have not recognition they deserved.

    Here are eight rising stars in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Gabriel Bourque, Left Wing, Nashville Predators

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    Bourque, who is in his second professional season, got his first NHL cup of coffee this year. In 43 games with Nashville, he had 19 points and a game-winning goal. Prior to being called up, he proved himself with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, posting 16 points in 25 games.

    In the playoffs so far, he has five points and one game-winning goal in eight games. He is tied for second on the Predators in scoring and tied for first with three goals.

    Bourque has also added 15 hits (tied for third) and is averaging 12:40 of ice time per game.

    He has one more year left on his current contract, and if he keeps it up, he could find himself in Nashville full-time to start next season.

Peter Harrold, Defenseman, New Jersey Devils

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    Harrold played just 11 games with New Jersey this year, posting two assists. He spent the majority of the year in the AHL with the Albany Devils, where he had 26 points and a plus-two rating in 69 games.

    Since joining New Jersey for the postseason, he has four assists in nine games to go with a plus-two. He is tied for first among Devils defensemen in scoring and also ranks eighth with 1:53 of ice time on the penalty kill. He gets 14:15 of ice time per game.

    Harrold is in his first year with the Devils after spending time with the Los Angeles Kings. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so will his performance be enough to keep him in the Devils depth chart?

Adam Henrique, Center, New Jersey Devils

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    Henrique, a finalist for the Calder Trophy, established himself on the Devils offense out of the gate this season. He had 51 points in the regular season and was first in the NHL with four shorthanded goals.

    In the playoffs, he has two goals and four points, as well as a plus-four rating. In the Devils' Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the Florida Panthers, he scored the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7 to put New Jersey in the first round for the first time since 2007. He currently has an assist and a plus-three rating through three games against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Henrique ranks seventh on the Devils with a 35.4-percent faceoff win percentage and 1:56 of ice time on the penalty kill. He is also ninth with 1:23 of power-play ice time.

Matt Read, Right Wing, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Read is in his first season with the Flyers after originally going undrafted, and he didn't let that hold him back from making an impact on the team. He had 47 points and a plus-13 in the regular season, contributing four power-play goals, two shorthanded goals and six game-winning goals.

    He is currently seventh on Philly with five points and tied for third with three goals. He averages about 15 minutes of ice time per game and ranks third with three minutes played on the penalty kill.

Mikkel Boedker, Right Wing, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Boedker is in his fourth season with the Coyotes (second full season) and had a career year with 24 points while adding two game-winning goals.

    Through nine playoff games, he has six points, good for third on Phoenix. He is also first in the NHL with two game-winning goals, and his 16 hits rank ninth on the team.

    Boedker is the perfect example of a rising star these playoffs—a player who got little-to-no attention in the regular season who is now making highlight reels with his goals. He could help Phoenix get to the conference finals for the first time in team history.

Mike Smith, Goaltender, Phoenix Coyotes

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    After struggling with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Smith has experienced a career rejuvenation in Phoenix. He started out by turning in a regular season record of 38-18-10 with eight shutouts, ranking fourth in the NHL in wins and third in shutouts. He was also third with a .930 save percentage and seventh with a 2.21 GAA.

    Smith has stood even taller in the playoffs, going 6-1-2, good enough to be second in the league in wins. He is also fourth with a .942 save percentage and seventh with a 2.03 GAA.

    When Smith was initially signed this past offseason, many laughed at the Coyotes, thinking that he wouldn't take them anywhere or be an adequate replacement for former starter Ilya Bryzgalov.

    But it looks like Phoenix has gotten the best laugh of all, especially after leaving the highly-touted Chicago Blackhawks in the dust in the first round.

Alex Pietrangelo, Defenseman, St. Louis Blues

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    Pietrangelo is in his second full season with the Blues and improved on his 43-point total from 2010-11 by posting 51 points and a plus-16 rating in the regular season. Of his 12 goals, six came on the power play, and the other six were game-winners.

    So far this postseason, he is sixth in the NHL with five assists and also has a plus-two rating. He leads the Blues with 24:58 of ice time and 21 blocked shots, and he is second with 3:30 of ice time on the penalty kill.

    Pietrangelo missed Game 2 of the Blues' series with the Los Angeles Kings due to an injury, but he returned for Game 3. He had an assist as St. Louis lost 4-2 to go down 2-1 in the series.

    However, despite the setback, Pietrangelo is one of the reasons why St. Louis is in the conference semifinals for the first time in a decade.

Braden Holtby, Goaltender, Washington Capitals

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    Holtby is one of the biggest success stories of the playoffs, as he stepped in for injured goalies Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun to help the Capitals upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

    He has continued as the starter as the Caps face the New York Rangers in the conference semifinals. Holtby currently has a record of 5-5 (three overtime losses) to rank fifth among goalies in wings. His .935 save percentage and 1.94 GAA are also fifth despite the fact that the Caps are down 2-1 in the series.

    In the regular season, he played seven games, going 4-2-1 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.49 GAA. He also played 40 games with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, posting a 20-15-2 record with a .906 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA.

    With Vokoun an unrestricted free agent this summer, Holtby could join Washington full-time next fall to form a young goaltending tandem with Neuvirth.

     

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