With the conference finals in full swing, this is the time where we begin to look at favorites for the Conn Smythe trophy. The likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Igor Shesterkin have been incremental to their teams throughout this postseason, as expected. However, the four remaining teams have also been the beneficiaries of some surprise players having big performances. Here are the most surprising players from each of the remaining four teams in the playoffs.
New York Rangers: Filip Chytil
Just behind leading goal scorers Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad is 22-year-old Filip Chytil. The center of the highly effective “kid line”, Chytil has been on a massive roll this postseason. His seven goals throughout the playoffs is tremendous given that he only scored eight throughout 62 regular season games. He’s been getting better later into the postseason, scoring two goals to force game seven against the Hurricanes and scoring two in game one of the conference finals.
The “kid line” as a whole has been fast and relentless in the offensive zone, retrieving pucks and creating quality chances. Chytil has been the best of the bunch at putting himself in a great position to bury pucks in the back of the net. For a team in need of depth at center, Chytil’s emergence this postseason has been a very welcome surprise. He’ll be a great asset to the Rangers on this run and in the future as well.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nick Paul
The Ottawa Senators faithful coined the catchphrase “Nick Paul does it all” during his time there. During these Stanley Cup Playoffs, Paul has exemplified this exact quality with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Outside of their usual star performers, Paul has been one of the biggest factors into their success thus far. He’s a hard working player that’s been useful in a number of roles for the Lightning.
He’s utilized in both the second units of the power play and penalty kill. Paul has also been effective in the faceoff circle with a 45.1 win percentage. His most notable highlight was scoring two goals in a game seven victory against the Maple Leafs in the first round. Whether on or off the puck, Paul has been elevating the team’s level of play this postseason. Trading for Paul at the deadline has proven to be a great and surprising value for this Lightning team.
Edmonton Oilers: Evan Bouchard
There’s no denying that Bouchard’s defensive game is still a work in progress. But the young Oilers defenseman has been highly productive on the offensive end of the puck. He leads all Oilers defensemen with nine points so far, and is sixth on the team overall. What’s been particularly impressive is how he’s been routinely deployed on the Oilers power play.
He picked up a pair of power play assists in the first round and scored a power play goal in the second round. Bouchard was also inches away from scoring a go-ahead power play goal in game three against the Avalanche. At only 22-years-old, Bouchard has made a significant impact working the offense in his first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A strong playoff debut shows how much talent this player has to offer the Oilers, especially once he develops his defensive game.
Colorado Avalanche: Artturi Lehkonen
Like Nick Paul, Artturi Lehkonen exemplifies a great value addition at the trade deadline. Working on the second line unit with Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen, he’s been a productive goal scorer for the Avalanche. His five goals so far is tied for fourth on the team with Valeri Nichuskin. Of the five goals he scored, two of them have been credited as game winners for the Avalanche.
The first was part of a two goal performance in game four against the Blues. The second was the opening goal of game two against the Oilers where he deflected a Kadri shot past Mike Smith. He’s already broken his career high in playoff points, scoring eight points through 13 games after only getting four points in each of his three other appearances with the Canadiens. He’s been a good fit for the Avalanche, and his continued success is going to be important down the stretch with Kadri out for the foreseeable future.
Featured image courtesy of NHL
Check out our NHL page for more updates!