The NHL playoffs are a hallowed ground where hockey heroes are made.
Regular season heroics are one thing, but it is often success in the postseason that truly vaults players into the annals of NHL lore and history. While this is true for most of the sport’s greats, from Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby, the playoffs are also a place where lesser-known players can stake out a claim to fame. Would many hockey fans remember the name John Druce, for example, were it not for his 14 goals in 15 games in the 1990 playoffs?
Here now is a rundown of the top five players that are breaking out right now in the 2015 NHL playoffs:
5) Patrick Maroon – Anaheim Ducks
It’s pretty easy to look good when you’re playing on a line with two of the best hockey players on the planet in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but you have to give Maroon full credit for continuing to earn his place alongside those two on Anaheim’s top line.
The imposing 6’3″, 220-pound power forward is only two years removed from the AHL, but has seven points in nine games and has been an absolute beast on the forecheck.
4) Kris Russell – Calgary Flames
Russell was a key player in helping the upstart Flames reach a surprising playoff appearance this season, but reached a legitimate fan-favorite status in the city of Calgary for his blue-collar hard work in the postseason.
He scored seven points in 11 games and averaged a hefty 26:44 of time on ice per night, despite sacrificing his body by leading the league in shot blocks with 54.
3) Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks took a big risk when they traded highly-touted young forward Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators in the summer of 2013, but are really starting to see a return for it now with the emergence of Jakob Silfverberg.
Silfverberg, 24, scored 39 points in 81 regular season games and has now upped his play in the postseason, with 11 points in nine games so far.
2) Braden Holtby – Washington Capitals
Holtby has been steadily becoming one of the league’s top goaltenders over the past few seasons, but has truly cemented his place among the NHL’s best these playoffs.
The 25 year-old netminder is currently sporting a phenomenal .944 save percentage, and has firmly led the Capitals to being one win away from the Eastern Conference finals.
1) Tyler Johnson – Tampa Bay Lightning
When was the last time that a player has come so far, so quickly, as Tyler Johnson has? Furthermore, has it ever happened at all?
Johnson was never drafted after four successful years in the WHL, but is now lighting up the scoresheet in the NHL playoffs at the ripe young age of 24. He has eight goals and 12 points through 12 games, and has played so incredibly well that he’s been overshadowing his teammate Steven Stamkos, a former 60-goal scorer and two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL