Commentary

Five unlikely heroes

Updated: April 10, 2012, 11:02 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

1. Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers

Rangers fans were annoyed when Hagelin didn't get much Calder Trophy talk down the stretch. They won't mind if he pots a few big ones come April or May, which is entirely possible if he continues to mesh with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.

2. Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks

Hansen's play in last year's finals was impressive and he's built on that with a career-best goal-scoring season, playing mostly on the Canucks' third line. He has the potential to provide the kind of depth scoring that separates abrupt playoff runs from long ones, and with Cody Hodgson gone to Buffalo at the trade deadline, there will be more opportunities for Hansen to shine in that unlikely hero role.

3. David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils

Was there a quieter 30-goal scorer in the NHL than Clarkson? While overshadowed by Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, Clarkson was a key member of the Devils' power play and has the potential to play the hero for a very good team.

4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes

The teenage defender might well have been the Coyotes' best rearguard this season, logging significant time on both the penalty kill and the power play. Getting the puck out of harm's way will be crucial to postseason success, and Ekman-Larsson will be a catalyst to achieving that goal. Heading into the Yotes' final game, Ekman-Larsson had logged 20 minutes or more in ice time in 47 games and 25 minutes or more in 18 games, impressive for a second-year defender.

5. Jason Chimera, Washington Capitals

The big, speedy forward set personal highs for goals and was tied for the team lead in game-winning goals. He scored two game winners in the first round of the playoffs last spring against the Rangers, including a huge overtime winner in Game 4 in New York.