With the playoff field set in the NHL, it’s time to determine who will be an x-factor for each playoff team not in the first-round, but beyond.
Washington Capitals: Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana: Washington has elite scorers like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom, but in order to get over the hump, they are going to need scoring from other sources. Players like Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana hit the spot. Burakovsky can play on any line and he only scored 12 goals and recorded 13 assists in 56 games, but Burakovsky has talent to get hot in the postseason. Vrana is a very similar player to Burakovsky, but Vrana will most likely be on the third line. He scored 13 goals and recorded 14 assists in 73 games with Washington. Vrana also has the talent to get hot.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Derick Brassard and Jamie Oleksiak: Pittsburgh traded for Brassard to help their chances for a three-peat. Brassard has been quiet ever since he was acquired, but he is known for stepping up in the playoffs. In 14 games with Pittsburgh, he scored three goals and recorded five assists. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Brassard scored 18 goals and recorded 20 assists. Oleksiak scored goals in two of the three meetings he played in against the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a big banger and can be a dangerous offensive weapon as a defenseman. Oleksiak scored five goals and recorded 12 assists in 68 games this season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick and Robert Hagg: Nolan Patrick could be the difference whether or not the Flyers advance. They have a solid first two lines and he will provide depth on the third line. Patrick scored 13 goals and recorded 17 assists in 73 games. He was the number two overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Robert Hagg will be an x-factor because of his defense, not because of his offense.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Sonny Milano: In 55 games, Milano scored 14 goals and recorded eight assists with Columbus. He has offensive potential. Milano can provide a spark if one of the key players doesn’t step up.
New Jersey Devils: Patrick Maroon: Maroon played in the postseason in 2017 with the Edmonton Oilers. He won’t be a stranger to playoff hockey in 2018 either. When his name is called upon, he will rise to the occasion. Maroon was acquired by New Jersey for his depth scoring. He had 17 goals and 26 assists in 74 games played this season, but Maroon scored three goals and recorded 10 assists in 17 games with New Jersey.
Boston Bruins: Ryan Donato: If you have been paying attention to the Boston Bruins lately, Ryan Donato is a no-brainer of a pick for the x-factor come playoff time. He just signed an entry-level deal a few weeks ago with Boston and in 14 games, Donato has scored five goals and recorded three assists. He can play on the second power play unit and Donato can play on the second or third line. Donato will be huge because Boston still has some key injuries.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Mikhail Sergachev: Tampa Bay’s defense hasn’t been to great as of late. If Victor Hedman goes down with an injury, Sergachev would get Hedman’s minutes and he would also be the first defenseman option on the power play. Sergachev scored nine goals and recorded 31 assists as a rookie, but he is going to have to play like a veteran in the postseason.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman, Frederik Andersen: Zach Hyman is an offensive player who isn’t talked about much on Toronto. He scored 15 goals and recorded 25 assists during the regular season. Hyman can play on the second or third line and he could be dangerous anytime he touches the puck. He is very underrated. It isn’t often I mention a goalie as an x-factor but Frederik Andersen will be. It’s because if he gets hurt, the Maple Leafs chances are finished. Andersen’s record was 38-21-5 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.81 GAA, along with five shutouts.
Nashville Predators: Ryan Hartman: In 21 games with the Nashville Predators, Ryan Hartman scored three goals and recorded three assists. He was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. Hartman has offensive potential. If he starts to get rolling, the Predators might become impossible to stop.
Winnipeg Jets: Paul Stastny: Winnipeg acquired a solid two-way player at the trade deadline in Paul Stastny. He is a good penalty killer and scored four goals and recorded nine assists in 19 games with Winnipeg. Stastny is also the energizer bunny inside the Jets locker room.
Minnesota Wild: Jared Spurgeon and Zach Praise: The Wild have a solid defensive unit and Jared Spurgeon could be one of the x-factors for Minnesota. He scored nine goals and recorded 28 assists in 61 games this season. Spurgeon is very good defensively and he could take his offensive game to another level. Praise is an x-factor because of the regular season he had to deal with. He didn’t start the 2017-2018 season because of back surgery. Praise only played in 42 regular season games and he scored 15 goals and recorded nine assists. If Praise finds his rhythm at all, Minnesota will be very tough to beat.
Colorado Avalanche: Alexander Kerfott and Tyler Jost: In order for Colorado to pull off a monster upset, they are going to need more offense than just Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Kerfott and Jost have offensive talent to give Colorado that boost. Kerfott scored 19 goals and recorded 24 assists during the regular season. Jost scored 12 goals and recorded 10 assists during the regular season.
Vegas Golden Knights: James Neal and Nate Schmidt: James Neal got off to a hot start during the regular season, but he has been the forgotten man in Vegas because off the season William Karlsson had. Neal scored 25 goals and recorded 19 assists during the regular season. He is an offensive weapon and Neal is dangerous enough to carry the Golden Knights. Defenseman Nate Schmidt scored five goals and recorded 31 assists during the regular season. He is very good defensively and Schmidt could be a secret offensive weapon for the Golden Knights.
Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell and Ryan Miller: Even though Rickard Rakell led the Ducks in scoring during the regular season (34 goals and 35 assists), he is going to have to continue his success because Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry did not have a great regular season. If Rakell gets shut down, the Ducks offense could be in a whole lot of trouble. If John Gibson (upper-body injury) isn’t ready to go for game one, Ryan Miller’s name will be called upon. He has playoff experience before with the Buffalo Sabres. His record during the regular season was 12-6-6 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA, along with four shutouts.
San Jose Sharks: Justin Braun: Braun might be the second best defenseman on the Sharks and he is going to continue playing like one. He only scored five goals and recorded 28 assists during the regular season, but Braun might need to shoot more from the back end in the postseason. San Jose did score 252 goals during the regular season, but they will need more production from the defensive unit.
Los Angeles Kings: Adrian Kempe: Kempe has the potential to be the Kings next star this postseason. Other than Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and Jeff Carter, they are going to need another scoring source somewhere. Kempe scored 16 goals and recorded 21 assists during the regular season. He is just 21 years old and a rookie. Kempe needs to play like he has been there before and he has the speed and offensive capability to cause problems for opponents.