2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Top 10 Rookie Performers

Ron MillerContributor IIIMay 11, 2012

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Top 10 Rookie Performers

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    The average NHL fan usually becomes familiar with an entirely new plethora of young players come playoff season.

    The NHL postseason provides a rather intimidating stage for rookies: some fold under the pressure, while others bask in the opportunity for greatness. 

    Several young guns have faced this challenge head on and contributed to their team's success so far this spring.

    Here are 10 rookies who are leaving their stamp on the 2012 playoffs.

10. Matt Read

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    Philadelphia boasted a large crop of talented rookies this year. During the regular season, Matt Read tallied 24 goals and 23 assists for a total of 47 points.

    Many view the the 25-year-old winger as a Calder Trophy snub.

    Read looked poised to continue his offensive tear in Round 1 where he had two goals and two assists in six games against Pittsburgh.

    However, like several other Flyers forwards, Read seemingly disappeared in the New Jersey series. He had only one goal in five games.

    Nonetheless, Read's first go-around in the playoffs can be viewed as a success.  

9. Erik Gustafsson

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    Coming in at number nine is another young Flyer.

    Gustafsson stepped in for Philadelphia to help solidify an injury-riddled defensive core and performed very well. 

    The Swedish-born defenseman had one goal and an assist in the playoffs with a plus-four rating.

    The young defender had to mature quickly this postseason after only participating in 30 games during the regular season.

    Though at times he looked a little shaky with the puck, expect the finer details of his play to be ironed out with time.

    I expect Gustafsson to become an integral piece of Philadelphia's defensive unit next season.

8. Adam Larsson

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    The Swedish defender was the fourth overall pick in last year's draft.

    Larsson put together a solid regular season, but it has been in these playoffs where his value has really come to the forefront.

    In only four games this postseason, Larsson is a plus-three. His goal against the Flyers in Game 2 of their second round series got the Devils' offense rolling on the way to eliminating Philadelphia in five games.

    Larsson could use a little work on the defensive side of his game, but if he plays to his potential offensively, he could be just what New Jersey needs at the blue line.

7. Gabriel Bourque

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    The 21-year-old Quebec native played very well for Nashville in their series win against Detroit in the first round. He had three goals and four points in five games.

    His play dipped off somewhat in Nashville's second round matchup with Phoenix where he had only one assist and was a minus-five.

    Bourque will be a key member of this Predators squad for years to come.

6. Sean Couturier

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    Though he did contribute well offensively, Couturier turned many heads with his defensive play. 

    The young center was assigned the responsibility of shutting down the Pittsburgh Penguins' star tandem of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, a task he performed with great success.

    Couturier became somewhat invisible in the New Jersey series after a knee injury he obtained from a altercation with David Clarkson.

    Couturier finished the postseason with three goals and four points in 11 games.

5. Slava Voynov

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    The Kings chose Voynov with the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 draft and the Russian born defender has begun to blossom into a solid contributer for Los Angeles.

    After a great regular season where Voynov had eight goals and 20 points in 54 games, he has continued his strong play in these playoffs.

    Voynov is a plus-two through the first two rounds of the postseason. He is also averaging about 18 minutes per game.

4. Chris Kreider

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    Just weeks ago, Chris Kreider was attempting to lead Boston College to a National Championship. Now he is trying to do the same with the Stanley Cup.

    These playoffs are Kreider's first taste of NHL play.

    The 19-year-old Rangers rookie has three points thus far in the postseason, but his stats do not do Kreider much justice.

    The speed and energy the young left wing brings to his game is remarkable.

    After a couple rookie mistakes that landed him on New York's fourth line, Kreider has returned to playing on the Rangers' second line.

    He has the potential to be an impact player in this league for years to come.

3. Brayden Schenn

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    Brayden Schenn exits these playoffs as the leading scorer among rookies with three goals, six assists and nine points in 11 games.

    After a regular season that was slightly overshadowed by fellow rookie teammate Matt Read's fantastic campaign, Schenn's goal-scoring ability came to the forefront this postseason. 

    The 20-year-old Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was one of the few Philadelphia players to show up offensively against New Jersey.

2. Adam Henrique

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    The New Jersey Devils can thank rookie center Adam Henrique for allowing their season to continue. 

    Henrique's game winner in double overtime against Florida in Round 1 not only allowed for New Jersey to continue their march towards the cup, but it also cemented him as a Devils postseason hero.

    Henrique surprised many when he seemingly came out of nowhere this regular season, scoring 16 goals, dishing out 35 helpers and totaling 51 points.

    He has continued that offensive production so far in the postseason with seven points in 12 games.

    Henrique is also very responsible in his own end: he has is a plus-6.

1. Braden Holtby

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    Not enough can be said about Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby.

    After injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, Washington's starter and back-up respectively, the young and slightly untested Holtby was called upon to protect the net during these playoffs.

    His play has stunned fans and experts alike. Currently, Holtby boasts a GAA of 1.95 and a save percentage of .935.

    In Round 1, he outplayed Boston's Tim Thomas and currently in Round 2 he has matched the play of Henrik Lundqvist, considered by many to be the best netminder in the league.

    If Holtby can continue his strong play and lead the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup, his performance will be remembered as one of the best by a goalie in recent memory.