Every year there are players who breakout in the playoffs and then follow that up with strong regular seasons. This season we watched players like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Joe Pavelski, Ville Leino amongst others elevate their game. This daily snippet will point out that player in an attempt to find some sleepers for next year prior to the end of the playoffs.
Before reading this article, please take a look at the League leaders in goals and points. What you should notice is a surprising forward leading the playoffs in goals, as 30-year-old right wing Joel Ward has really come into his own this post-season.
Ward took a long road to the NHL, going undrafted after playing four years with the Owen Sound Platers/Attack. He would then play for a team known as the Long Beach All-Stars in the playoffs before spending four more years at the University of Prince Edward Island. Upon graduating, he was signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Wild, who needed to fill their minor-league roster. Long story short, Ward was a longshot to make the NHL, and a very unlikely player to make a scoring line, let alone lead the League in goals. In addition, he has very little pedigree to hang your hat on making him a tough player to project this sort of success.
However, as a blue-collar forward he fits right in with Head Coach Barry Trotz. At this point there is no real explanation for his offensive outburst, he could tell you that himself courtesy of Buddy Oakes of Preds on the Glass:
If you took Ward in your playoff pool, you deserve a round of applause. Getting a chance to shine next to David Legwand and other talented forwards like Martin Erat makes the Ontario native standout on the big stage. However, temper your expectations for next season as he likely went undrafted in the deepest of leagues and at this point should be no more than a last-round flier.
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