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Sunday, April 8, 2012
Updated: April 9, 1:05 PM ET
Five series-changing rookies

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

1. Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers

The 25-year-old rookie winger has an all-around game that adheres well to the rigors of playoff hockey. Coach Peter Laviolette trusts Read enough that he handed him key penalty-killing time this season as well as some minutes on the second power-play unit. That won't change for the postseason. The four-year grad from Bemidji State University is as mature as rookies get. The playoffs shouldn't faze him.

"I've never been in the NHL playoffs, so you just listen to the guys who have been there and you try to take in as much as you can," Read told ESPN the Magazine. "They just say ... you're not going to remember the regular-season stuff. Embrace it all. Be prepared every game because every game is going to be war."

2. Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were willing to move top-four blueliner Jack Johnson to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Jeff Carter trade only because they had confidence Voynov could come up from the AHL and essentially replace Johnson. And he's done so with flying colors. He has been up a few times this season and every time looks like he belongs. Poised with the puck and quick on his feet, he's a future offensive blue-line star. The 22-year-old Russian seems to relish the chance to shine when given an opportunity. He could really open some eyes in the playoffs.

3. Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers

The sixth-round pick from the 2007 NHL draft has been a revelation this season, Hagelin's speed and agility producing timely goals for a team that doesn't have tremendous offensive depth. He's been paired mostly with first-liners Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik over the last few weeks of the regular season, but he's a guy you can bounce around from line to line and trust he can quickly adjust and make an impact.

4. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Much like his teammate Read, Couturier might be a rookie, but he's a player Laviolette knows can be trusted over 200 feet of ice. Only veteran Maxime Talbot averages more short-handed ice time per game among Flyers forwards than the 19-year-old Couturier. Couturier is like many teens in their first NHL season; they tend to blossom even more late in year after they've gained more experience and adjusted to the pro game. The playoffs could be another step in what appears to be an impressive career in the making for the eighth overall pick in last June's NHL draft.

5. Andrew Shaw, Chicago Blackhawks

We're guessing the Hawks didn't really think when they selected Shaw in the fifth round, 139th overall, less than 10 months ago in the NHL draft, that he'd be a key cog on their third line entering the playoffs. But the second-half emergence of the Belleville, Ontario, native has given the Hawks a nice two-way weapon who can play alongside super pest Dave Bolland. And like Bolland, Shaw likes to get under the skin of opponents. He'll be noticed in these playoffs.