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April 19, 2007

NHL Playoff Legends - John Druce

The playoffs is the time of the year when people start to wonder whether another John Druce will emerge from the shadows to become the talk of the hockey world.

Druce wasn't exactly as household name in NHL circles back in the early 1990s when he played for the Washington Capitals. He was a fourth-line fixture known more for his guts than glory. He was a part time winger with back to back 8 goal campaigns to begin a NHL career that appeared to be going nowhere fast.

But when sharp shooter Dino Ciccarelli became sidelined with a bad knee in the 1990 playoffs, Druce found himself on the Capitals' top line with Dale Hunter and Geoff Courtnall. The line clicked instantly and played like they had been playing together for years.

Druce stunned the hockey world when he netted 14 playoff goals in 15 games as the Capitals advanced to the conference finals. Druce became the unsung hero of the '91 post season. 8 of those goals came on the power play, and another shorthanded. 4 of his goals were game winners.

It's still early, but I'm not sure if we've seen a true John Druce yet this 2007 playoff season.

I don't think anyone expect New Jersey's Zach Parise to score 6 goals in his first 4 playoff games this season. But the sophomore is a 30 goal scorer and one of New Jersey's few offensive threats. He's hot, but John Druce he is not.

New York Rangers' pivot Michael Nylander had 8 points in a first round sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers. But he is a veteran offensive threat and he is playing alongside Jaromir Jagr, one of the greatest offensive players of our time. He may not have a reputation as a great playoff player, but he'll have to keep up this production through round two if he wants the John Druce award.

I'd be tempted to say this year's John Druce is Jannik Hansen. Hansen came out of nowhere (actually Denmark, with a couple of year long stops in Winnipeg and Portland) to make his NHL debut in these playoffs. He has slipped right in, playing in the Canucks top three line rotation. For someone who has never played in the NHL before, he has shown great speed, no fear, a good passing eye and occasionally has looked dangerous. Unfortunately he's only got one assist for his efforts, which prevents me from giving the John Druce award out to him.

At least so far. Maybe this year's John Druce will still emerge.

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