Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: 6 Players Becoming Stars Right Before Our Eyes

Rob GreissingerCorrespondent IIMay 23, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: 6 Players Becoming Stars Right Before Our Eyes

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    Some players thrive in the NHL playoffs. They need the emotion to feed themselves. In other words, they need something to play for. 

    Each team that makes a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs every year has a player or two that comes alive. Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux was an example before they were eliminated in the second round. There are players that are turning heads in these playoffs as well. 

    Unless otherwise noted, stats are provided by NHL.com.

Travis Zajac

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    The Devils' center to this point has only been a name familiar to Devils fans. From 2004 to 2011, he played in 401 consecutive games. He is a second- or third-line center. The Winnipeg native has scored 20 goals or more in a season twice in his career. He also has more than 250 career NHL points. 

    Zajac has proven to be a reliable player. His plus/minus rating is at zero, and he does not spend a lot of time in the penalty box. 

    During this year's playoffs he has six goals and five assists for 11 points. He has been a little quiet during the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers until he scored in Game 4. He could be back. 

    Click here for stats.

Ryan Callahan

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    Callahan is the Rangers' captain. He was a member of Team USA's silver-medal winning team in Vancouver in 2010. 

    The forward is behind teammate Brad Richards, but he is already a star. Callahan had not had a lot of attention on him until this year. He has flown under the radar for the most part. His numbers are not going to stand out on the stat sheet. What you will notice is that they are consistent. 

    He is quickly becoming known for being one of the best two-way forwards in the game.

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Jonathan Quick

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    Move over Kobe! Move over Blake Griffin!

    Jonathan Quick and the Kings are keeping the Staples Center busy. His numbers are just staggering and he is one of the focal points of the entire team. He is the guy turning the heads. 

    It is hard to find another goalie who has been this hot at any point in hockey history. The playoffs looked like a breeze since the Kings got past the Vancouver Canucks. 

    No matter what happens to the Kings in these playoffs, Quick will become a popular name, and his jersey is likely to be seen a lot more around Beverly Hills and Hollywood. 

    Quick may even give Ryan Miller a run for his money as the best American goaltender.

    His playoff stats are as follows: 14 games played, 12 wins, two losses, 22 goals against, .946 save percentage and a 1.54 goals against average. 

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Antoine Vermette

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    Vermette leads the Coyotes in points during the playoffs. His five goals and five assists give him 10 points.

    He has found a home in Phoenix since being traded from Columbus at the trade deadline. He has stuck to the same routine that he has had since he played in Columbus and Ottawa. 

    "It is a little strange," Vermette told NHL.com. "That is not something that I did in Ottawa or Columbus. You adjust yourself to the situation. Certainly, the weather is something you wouldn't think of when you're growing up [in Quebec] playing street hockey with your buddies."

    Vermette enjoys living in Scottsdale, and it's hard for him to believe the weather since he's from Quebec. 

    Despite getting eliminated by the Kings, Vermette has drawn some attention to himself and could provide a boost for a team making a run at or in the playoffs. He did that for the Coyotes this season.  

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Chris Kreider

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    Rarely does a college player come in and make an immediate impact on an NHL team. Chris Kreider has done that. He has a chance to win the Stanley Cup in addition to the NCAA Division 1 national championship he won with Boston College this year.

    He was drafted 19th overall by the Rangers out of a Massachusetts high school in the 2009 draft. 

    Kreider is a future American star. He has shown the benefits of a big body. He has used his 6'3" and 230-pound frame to thrive in the playoffs. Kreider has incredible vision and has great stick-handling skills. He has the potential to be the most dangerous power forward in the NHL.

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Dustin Brown

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    Like Callahan, Dustin Brown was another Olympian for the United States in 2010. The Ithaca, N.Y., native was selected 13th overall in 2003. It is arguably the deepest entry draft in NHL history.

    Brown has spent his entire career with Kings and became the team captain in 2008. He has led the Kings to the playoffs in three of his four years as captain. Despite not making it past the first round of the playoffs the last three seasons, Brown has found a knack for the playoffs. He just never had the players around him for the entire team to have success.

    In 25 career playoff games, Brown has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. In 14 playoff games this year, Brown has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points. 

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