Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: 5 Potential Unlikely Heroes

Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Every year, it feels like there’s an unlikely hero in the NHL postseason. Here are five candidates in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018

Every year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs spawns a new hero that is far from a household name. As each team embarks on their quest to win the coveted Cup, players other than the marquee names get a chance to take their game to the next level needs the biggest stage. The Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 will be no different.

Sometimes that player can be a veteran on his last attempt to win a Cup. It is often a player from the second or third line who elevates his play with the game on the line. Some of my favorites that come to mind are players like Eric Desjardins of the Montreal Canadiens, who scored a series defining goal that stemmed from the illegal stick called on L.A. Kings forward Marty McSorley in the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals.

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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ruslan Fedotenko scored twice in Game 7 to win the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. The legendary John Leclair came alive in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992-93, when he miraculously scored the overtime winner in Games 3 and 4, going on to win the title with the Canadiens.

This year, there will be opportunities for that second or third line player to make a name for himself on hockey’s biggest stage and etch their names forever on the Stanley Cup. Who could be the next Nick Bonino?

Patrick Marleau

In the 2015-16 season, at the age 36, Marleau became the youngest player to appear in over 1,400 games. A member of the 500 goal club as well, he often gets lost in the conversation with so much young talent around him.

Marleau should be an important cog for the Toronto Maple Leafs, knowing this may be his last chance to win the Stanley Cup. Year after year has brought frustration to him in the playoffs. Two years ago, Marleau’s Sharks lost to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The 38-year old is far from the 86 point scorer he was in 2005-06 but is certainly capable of carrying the team in the playoffs when it’s crunch time.  Marleau’s Stanley Cup experience is invaluable and will reap benefits in the locker room. He’s already helping his young teammates prepare game by game.

Related Story: Why The Leafs Time To Win Is Now

Josh Anderson

Anderson has finally returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets after being injured at the end of February. At the time of his injury, he was tied for the lead in goals with Artemi Panarin.  In his second game back after injury, the final game of the regular season, Anderson was paired on the top line while some of the veterans rested and found the back of the net.

The 22-year old had 19 goals in 63 games this season before getting hurt. Similar to teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand, Anderson is a young talent with a scoring touch that will be vital to Columbus when the bench (and shifts) get shorter during the playoffs.

Anderson probably won’t be getting too much ice time. However, he has a nose for the net and the skills to help take his game to the next level and help his team find a way to win.

Related Story: Blue Jackets Loaded For Cup Run

Nico Hischier

The first overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft has lived up to expectations so far. Hischier had a solid season with the New Jersey Devils Devils, a team that has always been defensive-minded. The 19-year old Swede tallied 20 goals and 35 assists this year while playing alongside Taylor Hall most of the season.

Hall scored 39 goals, the most by a Devils forward since Brian Gionta scored 48 in 2005. Hischier will be a vital piece of the equation if the Devils are going to continue their success in this year’s playoffs. Far from the trap days of old, this team needs to score goals to survive, especially against the firepower of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Related Story: Why The Devils Are Dangerous Dark Horses

Yanni Gourde

In his first full 82-game season, Gourde had a breakout season scoring 25 goals adding 39 assists and boasted a +34 plus-minus rating on the year. The Lightning finished first in the Atlantic Division and will take on a hungry Devils team that finished the season on a 7-2-1 run.

Gourde will look to help his team continue their success on the power play where they ranked third. The 26-year old Swede has been paired with Alex Killorn and new linemate Anthony Cirelli while logging quality time on the second power-play unit. He’s been overlooked because of his team’s outstanding depth, but Gourde could be a household name by the end of the postseason.

Kyle Connor

Connor is one of the most talented young players in the NHL who doesn’t get the attention he deserves. He was an outstanding college player for the Michigan Wolverines and Thomas Vanek is the only other freshman to score at least 30 goals.

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That same year,  Connor was named Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, was the scoring champ, and was named NCAA Rookie of the Year. Now playing on the Winnipeg Jets top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, he has thrived in his role on the team, notching 31 goals and 56 points in his rookie season. Connor has the chance to make his name well known through the hockey world if he can help Winnipeg bring the Cup home this year.

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