NHL Playoff Predictions 2013: Players Who Will Turn Sleepers into Contenders

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23:  Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center on February 23, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 2013 NHL playoffs are shaping to be some of the most exciting hockey games of the year, and there are star players ready to take their sleeper teams and ride them into contention for the Stanley Cup trophy.

All of the following stars will shine bright during the 2013 NHL playoffs.


Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks

When the San Jose Sharks (25-16-7) square off against the Vancouver Canucks (26-15-7) in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the excitement over the most interesting matchup of the postseason is through the roof.

Led by captain and center Joe Thornton (seven goals and 33 assists for 40 points in 2013), the lower-seeded Sharks were able to sweep the three-game, regular-season series against the Canucks and now hold the definitive edge mentally in the first round.

The biggest problem for San Jose during the season was the inconsistency of the even-strength scoring. If the team wants a chance to beat Vancouver in the most important games of the year, Thornton will have to step up big and put the team on his shoulders.

Series Prediction: San Jose over Vancouver, 4-3.


Rick Nash, LW, New York Rangers

While the New York Rangers (26-18-4) fell to the No. 6 seed overall in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals (27-18-3) finished just one point ahead of them in the standings, yet have come into this series as the favorite.

As long as New York has star forward Rick Nash in the lineup and he plays well, the Rangers should be favored in this opening series.

Nash only made the postseason one time during his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the talented offensive threat is looking to make his mark in the playoffs in his very first season in the Big Apple.

The biggest flaw for New York has been the inconsistency of the scoring behind Nash and the team’s top line, but with the ability to put the team on his shoulders and carry them to the second round, the left wing will play amazing and help deliver a huge series win for New York.

Series Prediction: New York over Washington, 4-2.


Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8) come into their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks (30-12-6) as the seventh seed and the underdog, but the elite play of veteran center Henrik Zetterberg this season will put his team in position to win this matchup.

Zetterberg is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL—contributing heavily in both the offensive and defensive end of the rink—and the Detroit star must play his most aggressive hockey against a team as talented as Anaheim.

While Zetterberg isn’t the ultimate goal scorer (only found the back of the net 11 times in 46 games), the talented puck-handler assisted on 37 tallies from teammates this season, good enough for fourth in the league.

If the seventh-seeded Red Wings want to upset the No. 2 Ducks and steal the upset series win, the team will need Zetterberg to shine in every facet of the game.

Series Prediction: Detroit over Anaheim, 4-3.