Shaw grabbed the spotlight during the Blackhawks run to the Stanley Cup last season, making a solid contribution (5 goals, 9 points in 23 games) and winning Game 1 of the final vs. Boston with his tally in triple OT. He was called on to help fill the hole at center left by Jonathan Toews' injury this season and his skill and grit coupled with last year's postseason experience should make him even more valuable as the Hawks try to become the first repeat champion since 1997-98.
2 of 16David Hahn/Icon SMI
Benoit Pouliot, LW
He'll never live up to the hype of being the fourth-overall pick in 2005, but the well-traveled Pouliot has created a niche for himself as a solid two-way forward with the Rangers. He's always been blessed with an appealing package of size and speed. but it's only under coach Alain Vigneault that he's consistently gotten the most out of his abilities. He set career highs in assists and points in 2013-14, suggesting he could provide timely secondary scoring for the Blueshirts during the postseason.
3 of 16Gene J. Pushkar/AP
Cam Atkinson, RW
It might be because he's a sixth round pick (2008) who plays with Columbus and saw some time on the Jackets' fourth line this season, but Atkinson is one the more anonymous 20 goal scorers in the NHL. He's listed at a modest 5'-8" and 174 pounds, but isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas to score (he ranked third on the team in points, 40), and always tries to make the most of his ice time. The Jackets will count on him to make up for the loss of Nathan Horton to injury.
4 of 16Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Darren Helm, C
It seems like the oft-injured Helm spends more time on the DL than he does on the active roster, but it looks like he'll be healthy for the playoffs for the first time in three years. With his speed and veteran guile, he's a natural complement to Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Jurco on Detroit's dangerous third unit. With coach Mike Babcock likely to roll his lines, Helm will get plenty of opportunities to produce.
5 of 16Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI
Josh Gorges, D
While he lacks the flash of his more exuberant teammate P.K. Subban, Gorges is, in many ways, just as valuable to the Canadiens. His rock-solid defensive presence and gritty leadership steady the Habs in their own end and free his partners to take chances in the offensive zone.
6 of 16Michael Martin/Getty Images
Marco Scandella, D
Scandella worked hard on his all-around game this season, advancing it to the point where he became a trusted regular in Minnesota's lineup. Still, it is his puck-moving ability that allows him to stand out. On the rare occasions that Ryan Suter leaves the ice, Scandella can be counted on to kick start the Wild's offense with quick reads, quicker feet and pinpoint passing.
7 of 16Jeanine Leech/Getty Images
Matt Niskanen, D
Niskanen was so lightly regarded coming into the season that his name was routinely mentioned in trade talks. Now he carries the buzz of a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate. He won't win it, of course, but the way he stepped up to carry a Pittsburgh defense that was short as many as four regulars at once made Niskanen one of the year's best stories. He reached career highs in goals (10), assists (36), points (46) and plus/minus (+33), setting the stage for an impactful playoff run.
8 of 16Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI
Reilly Smith, RW
Coming over from the Dallas Stars in the Tyler Seguin - Loui Eriksson deal during the offseason, Smith fit in very well with the Bruins. He played in all 82 games in his first full season, skating on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, and finishing sixth in scoring (51 points) on a very deep roster. Smith arguably contributed more than Eriksson (37), the key player the Bruins got in the deal, who was sidelined by injuries and didn't really get going until after the Olympic break. Of interest: Reilly will face his brother Brendan of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
9 of 16Deborah Robinson/Getty Images
Ryan Garbutt, LW
The 28-year-old late bloomer was a surprise contributor to the Stars, ranking third in goal scoring (17) while providing rambunctious energy on an effective third line. Dallas will live or die with the contributions of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, but Garbutt has the speed and puck hunger to play a key supporting role ... as long as he controls his emotions better than he did in Game 1 against the Ducks.
10 of 16Scott Levy/Getty Images
Sean Couturier, C
Just 21 and already three seasons into his NHL career, Couturier has established himself as one of the game's top two-way forwards and a highly effective shutdown center. Now the Flyers want to see if he can become a dominant presence in the offensive zone. His hockey sense is off the charts and the work ethic is there. Will the hands follow?
11 of 16Don Smith/Getty Images
Tommy Wingels, C
San Jose's success is built on its depth through the middle, but don't overlook the value of the Sharks' flexible corps of wingers. Wingels isn't the flashiest player on the roster, but he brings a versatility that allows him to play any style of game. He's coming off a season in which he scored 16 goals and 38 points, setting him up as a secondary source of offense for San Jose in the playoffs.
12 of 16Tommy LaPorte/Icon SMI
Tyler Toffoli, C
Toffoli showed some flash while getting a taste of postseason play during the 2013 playoffs, but he spent this season refining his defensive game so that he could earn the trust of coach Darryl Sutter. While he needs to be more responsible, Toffoli knows he'll make his way in this league as a dangerous goal scorer. That's a skill set the offensively-challenged Kings (just 206 goals, fewest among the 16 playoff teams) will need to rely on if they hope to make another deep run.
13 of 16Jack Dempsey/AP
Tyson Barrie, D
At 22, the undersized 5'-10", 190-pound defender has been overshadowed by the team's young marquee stars (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon), but Barrie blossomed into a key player on the Avs' backline this season, producing a career high 38 points in 64 games and scoring the most goals (13) by a Colorado defenseman since 2006-07. Though he's making his NHL postseason debut, his offensive spark earned him a spot on the point with Colorado's first power play unit. Unfortunately, a knee-on-knee hit by Minnesota's Matt Cooke in Game 3 knocked Barrie out of the playoffs for 4-6 weeks. His absence will be felt.
14 of 16Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Jaden Schwartz, LW
St. Louis' 2010 first rounder spent the entire lockout-shortened 2013 season in the NHL, but it wasn't until this campaign that he really stepped to the forefront with the Blues. His full-throttle performance in Game 1 against the Blackhawks highlighted exactly why he's earned the trust of coach Ken Hitchcock. Schwartz plays a 200-foot game and brings the same intensity with or without the puck. Look for him to get significant minutes throughout their playoff run.
15 of 16Mike Carlson/Getty Images
Ondrej Palat, LW
Just goes to show that you never know what you're going to get in the draft. Palat was passed over in his first year of eligibility, then had to wait as 207 names were called before the Lightning finally tabbed him at the bottom of the 2011 draft. He repaid their confidence by finishing second on the Bolts in scoring (59 points) and creating a consistent offensive option that helped them withstand the long absence of sniper Steven Stamkos. Palat, a likely Calder Trophy finalist, was injured in Game 1, but he should be back in time to make his mark on the series.
16 of 16Deborah Robinson/ Getty Images
Patrick Maroon, LW
In his first full NHL season, Maroon has been a good fit on any line. He tallied 11 goals and 29 points in 62 games while playing anywhere in the Ducks; lineup, from their first to their fourth line and he brings a nice blend of size, speed and grit. Maroon could become one of the next generation of power forwards in the league.
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