Ranking the 15 Best Players of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final

2014 Stanley Cup Final: Ranking the 15 Best Players

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Now that the two teams that will meet in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final have been decided, the pre-series analysis has begun in earnest. The New York Rangers will make their first appearance playing for Lord Stanley's Cup since 1994, while the Los Angeles Kings are in their second Stanley Cup final in three seasons. There's a lot of star power on both teams, but the following is a list of the top 15 players set to take the ice during this series.

15. Mike Richards, C, Los Angeles

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15. Mike Richards, C, Los Angeles

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While Mike Richards hasn't made many contributions on the score sheet this postseason, he's one of the better all-around forwards in this series and, as a former captain, brings leadership as well. Richards is capable of scoring big goals, but he's more of an intangibles player whose contributions largely go unrecognized if he doesn't light the lamp.

14. Justin Williams, RW, Los Angeles

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14. Justin Williams, RW, Los Angeles

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Justin Williams has averaged nearly a point per game during the Kings' playoff run and is one of the top wingers in this series. Time and again, Williams has come up with timely goals for Los Angeles and, while he doesn't get the recognition that other Kings do, he's one of the more dangerous players with the puck when he's on the ice.

13. Brad Richards, C, New York

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13. Brad Richards, C, New York

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After a dismal 2012-13 season, Brad Richards rebounded to finish third on the Rangers in points during the regular season. While Richards' impact has been lessened a bit in the playoffs, he's still a key contributor to the Rangers' power play, where he often mans the point. If New York wants to knock off Los Angeles, Richards and his fellow centers will have to hold serve against Los Angeles' fantastic trio of centers.

12. Derek Stepan, C, New York

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12. Derek Stepan, C, New York

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Derek Stepan was the recipient of a late hit by Brandon Prust in the Conference Finals and, as a result, missed one game with a broken jaw before returning with a fitted face shield. Stepan showed no rust, scoring two goals in his first game back, and he is now tied for the team lead in points during the postseason. Stepan's play in this series will be key, as he'll likely have to put up with the pesky Mike Richards or the talented Jeff Carter.

11. Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles

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11. Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles

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While Dustin Brown's offense has lagged a bit during the postseason, the Kings' captain still has only point less than the leading Rangers' scorer. Brown is the heart and soul of this team, one of the many reasons he wears the 'C', and he can be one of the most difficult players to play against on both sides of the puck. Having captained a Stanley Cup champion just a few seasons ago, he knows what it takes to win it all.

10. Dan Girardi, D, New York

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10. Dan Girardi, D, New York

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An impending free agent this offseason, Dan Girardi has certainly been upping his value this postseason. Girardi's value obviously comes more on the defensive side of the puck, but despite his one goal this postseason, he's still a threat to score from the blue line. Girardi and his defensive partner, the No. 5 player on this list, will have their hands full with L.A.'s top line, and how they fare will go a long way towards deciding this series.

9. Rick Nash, LW, New York

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9. Rick Nash, LW, New York

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Rick Nash has been a big disappointment this postseason for the Rangers and their fans, but he gets another chance to redeem himself in the Stanley Cup Final. Nash checks in at this spot on the list solely based on his talent and past accomplishments, as he has only managed three goals and 10 points in 20 playoff games thus far. If New York is to win this series, they need their top goal-scorer to start lighting the lamp.

8. Martin St. Louis, RW, New York

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8. Martin St. Louis, RW, New York

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Martin St. Louis got off to a slow start as a Ranger after the trade deadline deal that saw him shipped north from Tampa Bay, but St. Louis has made up for that in spades with his performance during the playoffs. St. Louis leads the Rangers in points this postseason and scored the game-winning goal in overtime in a huge Game 4 victory in the Eastern Conference Finals. St. Louis, like Nash, will have to come up big in this series.

7. Marian Gaborik, RW, Los Angeles

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7. Marian Gaborik, RW, Los Angeles

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Former Ranger Marian Gaborik has been the most dominant goal scorer in the league this postseason, netting 12 goals in the Kings' 21 postseason games. Gaborik, who the Rangers traded to Columbus last season before Columbus spun him to L.A. at this year's deadline, has really come on in the playoffs, finding himself fourth in the NHL in total points. The Rangers history with him could give them an advantage, but they'll need to keep him in check.

6. Jeff Carter, C, Los Angeles

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6. Jeff Carter, C, Los Angeles

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Jeff Carter, another player who the Kings acquired from Columbus (albeit a few seasons ago), has proven himself to be one of the best all-around centers in the game. It's no coincidence that, along with his teammate Mike Richards, Carter has appeared in three of the last five Stanley Cup Finals -- two with the Kings and one with the Flyers. Carter has been one of the leading scorers throughout the regular and postseason and is a player to watch.

5. Ryan McDonagh, D, New York

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5. Ryan McDonagh, D, New York

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Ryan McDonagh has proven himself to be one of the top defensemen in the NHL and will draw the unenviable task of trying to shut down Los Angeles' top line, led by the No. 1 player on this list. Although he's known for being a shutdown D-man, McDonagh is tied for the team lead in points this postseason and is a key contributor to the Rangers' rejuvenated power play. How he and Dan Girardi handle L.A's top line will be a huge factor in this one.

4. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles

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4. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles

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Although Jonathan Quick hasn't looked quite like the Vezina Trophy-winning goalie that Kings fans have grown accustomed to seeing, he's still played well enough to help L.A. defeat three of the top teams in hockey this playoffs. Quick almost single-handedly backstopped the Kings to a Stanley Cup victory in 2012, but he's needed a bit more help this time around. With the No. 2 player on this list opposing him, Quick will have to be sharp.

3. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles

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3. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles

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Drew Doughty can make a case for being the best all-around defenseman in hockey which has readily been on display during the Kings' run. Doughty is the lifeblood of the Kings' blue liners, and he will be tasked with shutting down Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis. Doughty's also an offensive force, racking up 16 points in 21 games thus far and isn't afraid to jump up in the play, which the Rangers will have to watch for.

2. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York

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2. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York

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Henrik Lundqvist is probably reason Nos. 1 through 5 as to why the Rangers are playing for the Cup, and that won't change in the Finals. Lundqvist is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL and possesses the capability of winning games by himself when he gets hot. Although he's prone to a bad game here and there, if New York is to walk away from this one victorious, he's going to need to be the best player on the ice.

1. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles

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1. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles

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Anze Kopitar is one of the top all-around players in the world and has been a key cog in the Kings' recent runs. Kopitar led Los Angeles in points during the season and continues to do so during the postseason, with his combination of size, speed and playmaking ability making him one of the most dangerous players on the ice. Kopitar is also a shutdown defender and could find himself shadowing Rick Nash or Brad Richards in this series.

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