Stanley Cup Predictions 2012: Unknown Players Who Will Shine on Biggest Stage

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Stanley Cup Predictions 2012: Unknown Players Who Will Shine on Biggest Stage
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Surely you know Ilya Kovalchuk (17) but can you name the other important Devil pictured here?

Like it or not, the Stanley Cup Final features two teams that were not even projected to make it out of the first round, much less their respective conferences.

The six-seeded New Jersey Devils face off against the last-seeded Los Angeles Kings for hockey's holy grail. No one expected them to be here, so consider yourself excused if you need a crash course on who's who.

Hopefully you're already familiar with NJ goalie Martin Brodeur, only the game's greatest goalie of all time gunning for his fourth title to pile on a mountain of individual records and accolades (namely four Vezina Trophies as the NHL's best goaltender). Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk are the undisputed offensive leaders for New Jersey, combining for 14 goals and 32 points, while the Kings feature lines centered by Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll.

But it's not out on much of a limb to say that those players will make their mark on this year's cup. What's really compelling about this series, however, is the the production each team has seen from all four lines. There seems to be a different hero for the Kings and Devils every night. Here are three of those breakout stars you need to know.

 

Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils

If you're just checking in for the finals, you've probably never heard of this 22-year-old rookie. If you've been following the Devils from the first round, however, you know Henrique has a flair for the dramatic.

He pushed New Jersey past Florida with a goal in double OT of Game 7 in Round 1 before clinching the Devils' series win over the New York Rangers and their spot in the finals with a score 63 seconds into overtime of Game 6.

Is it fate that Brodeur was just a 22-year-old rookie himself 18 years ago when the Rangers took Friday's exact same scenario and turned it into a trip to finals of their own?

"I think [Brodeur] and Henrique maybe have something going on where they're trading years or something," said Devils center Ryan Carter, according to an article by Yahoo! Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika that details the eerie similarities between the two series. "Henrique's beyond his, and Marty's drinking from the fountain of youth."

 

Dwight King, LW, Los Angeles Kings

No, this isn't just a cheap trick to make puns with a player's last name that just so happens to be the same as his team's. With only 33 regular-season games over two years to that name, King has now matched his career total in goals with five this post season.

After dispatching of top-seeded Vancouver in a quick five-game, first-round series, the Kings still wanted to mix things up and moved King from Line 2 to 3 while moving Dustin Penner up in his place. Penner went on to post eight of his 10 points this post season while King scored all five of his post-season goals after the move, including four against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. He's heating up just in time for for his first shot at the cup.

 

David Clarkson, RW, New Jersey Devils

Playing in his sixth NHL season, Clarkson's 30 regular-season goals came in as more than his total from the last two years combined (23) and nearly double his previous career high of 17.

For an encore, he has merely gone on to score three times this postseason, each time in game-winning fashion. That doesn't even mention his seven assists this spring, nearly half of his career-high total of 16 from the regular season.

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