We’re inching closer to playoffs. We all know the team we want to win and all the names that will hopefully get them there. But we also know that playoffs mean every player has to step up and make contributions. So as we gear up for the 2020 Cup run, here are some players I personally think need to be watched.
Jakub Vrana (Capitals):
He’s proved himself to be a great second-line player for the Caps this regular season. Vrana’s had an upward trend in his four years in the League, so far this season having 52 points in 68 games (a career-high thus far). His last post-season was disappointing (left without a point) but a valuable asset in the 2018 Cup run. He has the speed, he has the shot, and this season, he has the confidence. It will be interesting to see what he’s made of this post-season.
Jake Virtanen (Canucks):
A power forward who can score. The Canucks have a ton of skill this year, what they needed was a guy who could play hockey and throw his weight around. He’s been with the team for a few seasons now, but this season, something in his brain seems to have clicked. He’s at 36 points in 68 games. While he’s not as impressive as Vrana, the Canucks need his physical abilities to be successful.
Andre Burakovsky (Avalanche):
He had a rough go of it in Washington and never had the chance to play much of a role in that lineup. Since the move, Burky’s had a career season. He’s at 45 points in 58 games, and that’s with missing a bunch from illness and injury. Burra is an exciting skater, skilled with the puck, and is always looking for a pass. What he’s gained from playing in Colorado is the confidence to shoot the puck, something he lacked in DC. Not going to lie, he’s my favorite player, and I’m so excited to see him do well.
Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders):
Assuming they can battle their way back into a Wild Card spot, Beauvillier is a player that is aging like a fine wine. Beau is another player having a career season at 38 points in 67 games. He’s deceptively quick, got a wicked shot, and unselfish. He’s also been paired quite a bit with Barzal, and while Trotz has kept Barzy on a pretty short leash in terms of offensive maneuvers, Beau has been finding ways to connect with him. They’re a fun pair. I hope to see them continue in the first round, at least.
Ilya Samsonov (Capitals):
It’s the year of the young tendies. But with everyone more focused on Elvis in Columbus, Sammy has flown under the radar. He’s at 16-6-2 in 26 games. He is only 23 and as cool as they come; he’s got the confidence of a veteran. With Holtby being hot and cold during the regular season, he’s proved himself to be a valuable asset. I’m calling it now: if the Caps don’t pay Holtby this summer, Sammy’s going to be the starter in 2020-2021, especially if he’s as rock-solid come April.
Ethan Bear (Oilers):
He’s not the most skilled player on the ice in Edmonton, there’s no debating that, but Bear has got a bright future in the league. He did play 18 games last season, only notching 4 points, but he’s found his groove this year. 69 games in, he’s at 21 points, which is impressive considering he’s also known to throw his weight around. He may not be the first guy to drop the gloves, but he’s shown that he can hold his own. There’s an edge to his game that the Oilers need surrounding Draisaitl and McDavid. He slots in well with the team and with the likes of Nurse and Kassian, he’s got a lot to learn.
*Heavy Eastern lean because Western games are past my bedtime.
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-Heidi Thomas (@damselondrums)