2009 NHL Playoff Sleeper Candidates

PuckpassionCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MARCH 17: Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 17, 2009 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Every year in the playoffs there is always at least one player to come out of nowhere and be a big contributor to his team’s success. We saw it with Fernando Pisani of the Oilers in 2006, Travis Moen of the Ducks in 2007, Johan Franzen for the Wings last year as well as RJ Umberger who scored a ton of goals for the Flyers.

I’m going to give you one candidate from each playoff team that I think can emerge from the shadows to be a solid contributor for his team.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins
: (RW) Chuck Kobasew - Chuck is a speedy winger with good hands and has been showing he is not scared to play around the net with his smaller frame. He had a good season this year with 21 goals in 68 games played. If the Bruins make a deep run, this could be Chuck’s coming out party.

Washington Capitals: (RW) Tomas Fleischmann:
Bruce Boudreau in a recent interview said Tomas has the skill and smarts to be a 40 goal scorer in the NHL. Problem is he plays with too many guys who score/shoot and play with the puck more.

Tomas got off to a great start this season where at one point he was on pace for around 35 goals midway through the season, but eventually ended the season rather poorly in the second half where he only hand a handful of goals. He finished with 19 goals to be exact. He has something to prove.

New Jersey Devils: (RW) David Clarkson
- Known more as a tough guy, David also has some offensive skills as well. David scored 17 goals this year. He plays a gritty style and is definitely not scared to play in high traffic areas.

If David gets more ice time and gets lucky around the net, he can score some goals in the playoffs. More so a player to play above himself, not stand out too much in the overall statistical department when compared to the big dogs.

Pittsburgh Penguins: (C) Tyler Kennedy - The obvious choice for this team would be to pick Ruslan Fedotenko who was a huge part of the Lightning and their pursuit to the Stanley Cup in 2004. He’s a good candidate, but I like Tyler for this team.

He plays with more energy, has a better shot and gets into the dirty areas more often. Not a player that will be on the scoresheet every game, but his overall body of work in a deep playoff run can be a big part to the Pens success.

Philadelphia Flyers: (RW) Claude Giroux - Get to know his name now guys. Claude will soon be a bonafide NHL’er. He’s small in size, but he has hockey smarts that are second to none with great all around skills, espcially his vision.

He has already proved in his 42 games this rookie season he is NHL ready posting a respectable 27 points and showing great chemistry with his linemates. On most nights he was by far the best Flyer on the ice.

Carolina Hurricanes: (C) Matt Cullen - Matt did not play in the last handful of games for the Hurricanes because of a lower body injury. Prior to his injury he was absolutely on fire notching 12 points in his last 10 games.

Matt fits in well with this Hurricane team, and as long as he comes back 100 percent or good enough to play in the playoffs, he will be a great addition to the team.

New York Rangers: (C) Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon was one of the scratch your head stories of the year because he started off the season so well when he tallied 12 points in his first 13 games (four goals in that time).

It looked like he was ready for a breakout season, but 69 games later and only nine goals and 19 assists in that time said otherwise. However, in the last 10 or so games of the season he looked much better (four goals and nine points in last 12 games). The Rangers need this kid to step up, so keep an eye on him.

Montreal Canadiens: I don’t have a true sleeper here for the Habs. I was going to say Matt D’agostini but I have nothing to back it up. My gut says Sergei Kostitsyn.

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks: (LW) Ryan Clowe - Ryan broke out of the sleepers list this year and turned some heads putting up respectable numbers in the first half of the season. However, after his injury where he missed from around mid March to the last week of April has landed him back on that sleepers list because people will forget about him.

Ryan played well for San Jose in the playoffs last year and expect him to step it up again this time around.

Detroit Red Wings: (C) Valtteri Filppula - Valtteri is another emerging star from that long list of Red Wings who were never highly touted on draft day. Valtteri finished the season pretty well for the most part. I’ve always liked this kid and he is getting better and better. His breakout could be right around the corner.

Vancouver Canucks: (D) Alex Edler - Anyone who reads my blog knows I love this kid. Some say I go too far calling him the next Nik Lidstrom, but there is no doubt he has the tools. It’s not like he didn’t have a good year this year (37 points), but expect him to be even a bigger part of what the Canucks do in the playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks: (LW) Andrew Ladd - To most, Andrew Ladd has been a big underachiever so far in his career. In his first full season this year where he was finally able to play a full 82 games, he seemed to find his niche with the Blackhawks.

He put up fairly good numbers (15 goals, 34 assists) this year. Andrew finished the season very strong (better than a point per game in his last seven played). I feel he’s on the verge to make some noise in the playoffs.

Calgary Flames: (C) Craig Conroy - If the Flames are to do any damage this postseason, they are going to need one of their "other" seasoned vets to step up, this either being Daymond Langkow or Craig Conroy most notably.

Craig has had a very respectable season and I think this will carry over to the playoffs. He will see lots of ice time for his defensive and faceoff presence. I’m liking all the positives here.

St. Louis Blues: This whole team is full of sleepers and youngsters, so it’s hard to try and cherry pick just one to be honest with you. Anyone from David Perron, Pat Berglund, TJ Oshie, and even Alex Steen can all be labled as capable sleepers.

Columbus Blue Jackets: (C) Mike Peca - This guy has a history of coming up big in the playoffs. Just look at his days with the Isles and Oilers. Columbus needs help down the middle where they are thin and that help could come from Mike Peca.

Anaheim Ducks: (D) James Wisniewski - James was traded from the Blackhawks to the Ducks for Sammy Pahlson at the deadline. Since that point to the end of the season, he had notched 11 points in 17 games. He fit in like a glove on the back end for the Ducks. Highly skilled puck mover with a big shot. Ready to turn some heads.


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