Every playoff season, there's a player who emerges from the shadows, grabs the hockey world by the collective lapels, gives it a vigorous shake and says, "Hey, look at me. I'm not just a player, but a money player."
Among hockey players there is no finer compliment. Sometimes, these players make a career of such spring exploits (Glenn Anderson and Claude Lemieux come to mind). Others -- like John Druce, Steve Payne or Steve Penney -- burst upon the scene, then disappear in the blink of an eye.
Who will emerge this spring as a money player? Here's a look at 10 players who might fit the bill as an unlikely playoff heir.
Andy McDonald -- Anaheim
Who the heck is Andy McDonald and how did he manage to get 85 points? Well, playing alongside a player the caliber of Teemu Selanne doesn't hurt, but the slight, 5-foot-11, 186-pound native of Strathroy, Ontario, reminds some scouts of Martin St. Louis during St. Louis' breakout year in Tampa in 2003-04. McDonald, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Ducks in the spring of 2000 after spending four years at Colgate, hits the playoffs showing no signs of slowing down after recording 17 points in his last 10 games. He was kept off the score sheet just once during that span. The going will get considerably tougher now, especially against the battle-tested Flames, but McDonald's continued production will be key if the Ducks are to continue their Cinderella ride.
Dmitri Kalinin -- Buffalo
The Sabres have waited patiently for Dmitri Kalinin to mature into the difference-maker they envisioned when they made the big blueliner the 18th overall pick in the 1998 draft. But the 6-foot-3, 206-pound native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, is slowly making his presence felt. For the second season in a row, he led all Sabres defensemen in scoring with 10 goals. Against a physical Flyers team, some scouts believe Kalinin might be one of those players whose performance proves to be the difference. Kalinin, 25, regularly logs upward of 20 minutes per night and was a minus-player in just three of his last 25 regular-season games. His play against a physical, experienced team will say much about how the Sabres fare in their first playoff test since 2001.
Jamie Lundmark -- Calgary
It's been a bit of a whirlwind trip for Jamie Lundmark. He's gone from washed-up top prospect on Broadway to being briefly in and then out of favor with Wayne Gretzky and the Coyotes to suddenly being an important offensive cog in the Flames' playoff machinery. In 12 games since Lundmark arrived in Calgary at the trade deadline, Lundmark, the ninth overall pick of the Rangers in 1999, has notched 10 points and is plus-2. On a team that figures to struggle offensively in its quest for the Stanley Cup, that's a positive offensive explosion. Playing alongside youngster Matthew Lombardi and veteran sniper Tony Amonte, and on the Flames' power play, Lundmark will be given ample opportunity to open eyes that only a few short months ago were closed to him.
Chris Mason -- Nashville
No one is giving goaltender Chris Mason and the Predators a snowball's chance in Hades of advancing beyond the first round against a San Jose team boasting the game's top point and goal producers, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. But there is something about Mason's engaging, frank attitude about being vaulted into the playoff limelight that makes you wonder if he isn't capable of pulling off a Steve Penney. He seems to have moved seamlessly into the starter's role, and he's won six in a row, which speaks to Mason's maturity (he turned 30 on Thursday) and his patience. Mason credits goalie coach Mitch Korn with helping improve the technical aspects of his game, and there is a sense of rallying around Mason in the tightly knit Predator dressing room. Playoff hero? We're about to find out.
Justin Williams -- Carolina
It wasn't too long ago that Justin Williams was considered one of the Philadelphia Flyers' top prospects. But after missing most of the 2002-03 season recovering from shoulder and knee injuries, Williams seemed to have fallen into the abyss, and it raised few eyebrows when he was dealt to Carolina for Danny Markov in January 2004. Fast forward through the inevitable questions about whether Williams' career was headed nowhere, and there are only answers when it comes to the 6-foot-1, 190-pound winger. Given the confidence to play his own game by coach Peter Laviolette, Williams has become an integral part of a team that enters the playoffs as a legitimate Cup contender. Playing alongside Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour, usually against the opposing team's best players, Williams has established career bests in goals (31) and points (76). Williams hit the postseason with 23 points in his last 22 games, and the door to expected stardom has swung wide open.
Jussi Jokinen -- Dallas
OK, admit it. When you think of Jussi Jokinen, you think shootout. And why not? The dynamic rookie was 10-for-13 in the competition and helped Dallas become the most dangerous shootout team in the league. The shootout, of course, is a regular-season attraction, and now it's time to find out whether the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Jokinen can deliver the goods in the postseason. The Stars are a legitimate Cup threat, and Jokinen has earned his time on the top line playing with Finnish icon Jere Lehtinen and Dallas captain Mike Modano. Not a bad lot in hockey life for the skilled 23-year-old from Kalajoki who didn't look to be in position to make the team out of training camp. Both GM Doug Armstrong and coach Dave Tippett have given high praise to Lehtinen, who has helped Jokinen make the adjustment, and for Jokinen, who has adjusted to the rigors of NHL hockey far more quickly than expected since he was drafted in 2001. Oh, he's 1-for-1 on penalty shots if he gets the chance in the coming weeks.
R.J. Umberger -- Philadelphia
Think Flyers and you think Derian Hatcher, Peter Forsberg, Mike Knuble, Simon Gagne, Eric Desjardins. The big guns. But if the Flyers are to make good on preseason predictions that they are a Stanley Cup threat, they need someone to step out of the shadows, especially if Forsberg continues his pattern of intermittent play. Well, how about Umberger? A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., who spent three years at Ohio State University, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound center fits the Flyer mold of being larger than life and tougher than nails, but he has also surprised with his offensive contributions. The 23-year-old, taken with the 16th pick in the 2001 draft, has 10 goals and seven assists over his last 21 games. The rookie finished the campaign with 20 goals and a plus-9 rating, centering a youthful but skilled line that includes Jeff Carter and Niko Dimitrakos. Umberger could figure prominently, if surprisingly, into any success the Flyers have against Buffalo and beyond.
Nils Ekman -- San Jose
He is the forgotten man on hockey's most dynamic line, yet Nils Ekman may yet prove to be a key figure if the Sharks are to continue their Cinderella transformation from bums to champions. In recent weeks, the names of Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo have become virtually synonymous with San Jose's success. In fact, Thornton, the big center/savior from Boston, and Cheechoo, the hot-handed winger from someplace called Moose Factory, Ontario, have morphed into one entity. This brings us to the 30-year-old Ekman, the guy who, it would seem, is using up valuable oxygen on the opposite side of the ice while Cheechoo and Thornton score goal after goal. But the skilled, speedy native of Stockholm has recorded back-to-back 50-point seasons and will have every opportunity to make hockey's biggest duo into a dynamic trio before the playoffs are finished.
Paul Martin -- New Jersey
As much as we applaud the performances of Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, two little guys who have played large, large, large for the Devils, New Jersey will need more than that. Most scouts and analysts point to the Devils' back end as a weak spot, especially when it comes to offensive contributions. Without the erstwhile Scott Niedermayer, the bulk of the pressure falls to Brian Rafalski. But a closer look shows that cerebral puck-moving defenseman Paul Martin may turn out to be the catalyst for a long Devils run. The second-year player, who was a member of the U.S. team at the World Championships last year and on the taxi squad for the Torino Olympics -- he should have been on the active roster, but we digress -- quietly finished second among team defenders behind Rafalski with 37 points. More impressive, 20 of Martin's points came on the power play, where the Devils will need to capitalize if they hope to advance deep into these playoffs.
John Grahame (and Sean Burke) -- Tampa Bay
Almost no one (with the possible exception of this writer) believes the defending Stanley Cup champions have a chance against the Eastern Conference champion Ottawa Senators. But what chance they do have starts and ends in goal. Although coach John Tortorella hasn't announced his starter for Game 1, look for John Grahame to get the start. Grahame, 30, has shown he is capable of stringing together playoff-like performances. He won nine games in a row at one point this season, a streak that earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. He won 29 games, one off the franchise record set by Nikolai Khabibulin, the guy who backstopped the Bolts to a Cup win. Grahame had five shutouts, yet his inconsistent play has left him with the reputation of being so much chopped liver. He's not. And he'll get a chance to prove that with almost no pressure against Ottawa. Perfect. Now, we're not suggesting Grahame can do it all himself. Remember back in 2002 when Carolina coach Paul Maurice flip-flopped netminders Kevin Weekes and Arturs Irbe en route to the team's first Stanley Cup finals appearance? Well, nominal backup Sean Burke hasn't won a playoff series since 1988. He's due, don't you think?
Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.