The return of Paul Maurice behind the Hurricanes' bench in December ignited a furious second-half rally that saw Carolina enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The 'Canes upset the New Jersey Devils in in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, thanks in large part to an unexpected meltdown by Martin Brodeur and the Devils' defense in Game 7. In the second round, the Hurricanes again pulled off an upset, knocking off the No. 1 seed Boston Bruins. Leading the way was former No. 2 overall pick Eric Staal. He was a dominant force through the opening two rounds, scoring 10 goals in his first 14 playoff games.
Draft Year: 2003
The first skater taken in the '03 draft after goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury went No. 1 overall. Six years later, he's been the most productive player in one of the best drafts in recent memory.
Why He's On My List
In his first five NHL seasons, Staal has already registered four 30-goal campaigns, and twice eclipsed the 40-goal plateau. During the 2008-09 season, he led the Hurricanes with 40 goals and 75 points, while also setting a franchise record with four hat tricks, including a four-goal performance in a 9-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 7, 2009. He was one of the main reasons (along with the play of goaltender Cam Ward) that the Hurricanes managed to knock off the top-seeded Boston Bruins (as well as the New Jersey Devils) to make a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals. In his two playoff appearances, he's been a point-per-game player, including a team-high 28 points in 25 games in 2005-06 when the Hurricanes won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. A three-time All-Star that has missed just one game in his career (during his rookie season).
Obligatory YouTube Video
Eric Staal's day with the Stanley Cup.