1. Blair Betts - The fourth-line centre takes most key faceoffs in the defensive zone for New York Rangers’ coach Tom Renney. He is arguably the team’s number one penalty killer and is a big reason that the New York penalty kill leads the league at 87.6 per cent.
2. Ian Laperriere - At times, this warrior has been the best player on the Avalanche this year. He fights, he scores and he plays with a passion like no other 35-year-old in the league. He brings it every night.
3. Rene Bourque - He’s not the only new addition to the Flames this year, but he’s definitely been the most surprising. Just halfway through the season, he’s already tied his career-high with 16 goals. He stepped up to defend teammate Daymond Langkow by fighting Washington’s Tyler Sloan after a hit in an Oct. 21 game. His speed, skill set and physical presence have been a huge boost for the Flames so far this season.
4. Tom Kostopoulos - Playing for the Montreal Canadiens he doesn’t ever go unnoticed with all the media attention there, but Kostopoulos has been a key component on the Canadiens roster so far this year. He’s dropped the gloves on occasion and has been a versatile player on many different lines while the team battled injuries. He’s provided offensive at key times throughout the season and has played through a variety of injuries. As Guy Carbonneau states, “I would take 20 guys like him over anything else.”
5. Ben Eager - Playing on one of the best fourth lines in the league with Colin Fraser and Adam Burish or Craig Adams, Eager has shown he can play at both ends of the rink for the Blackhawks. He is tough as nails and has become an opposing figure since coming over from Philadelphia in December 2007. He is tied for sixth on the team with eight goals while only averaging eight-plus minutes a game.
6. Steve Staios - The numbers are not up there and he is definitely overshadowed by the likes of Sheldon Souray and young Tom Gilbert, but Staios has been a warrior any NHL team is lucky to have. He blocks shots with any part of his body, plays tough minutes against other teams’ top lines and is no doubt the inspirational and veteran leader on the back end of the Oilers’ blue-line.
7. Sean O’Donnell - After being traded from Anaheim to L.A., you probably haven’t heard much about O’Donnell, but he has become the mentor for young Drew Doughty who has been lights out this year as an NHL rookie. He sits beside him in the dressing room and has been paired with the rookie since his arrival in L.A. The veteran, who is nearing the end of his career, has been a positive influence for a young team that needs experienced leadership.
8. Ryan Kesler - The Vancouver Canucks’ third-line centre started the season on fire offensively. At the same time he contributes defensively by playing against the other teams’ top lines. With 25 points, he is sure to pass his season high of 37 points from last year. He’s a big reason why this team could remain somewhat consistent without Luongo between the pipes.
9. Dennis Wideman - I realize that he could’ve been an all-star, but with a guy named Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ roster, Wideman has quietly gone about his business. He’s accumulated 31 points on the season and is averaging 26 minutes per game. With a handful of injuries to the Boston blue-line, Wideman has helped keep the unit in check.
10. Craig Anderson - My list would not be complete without including a backup goaltender and Anderson has been outstanding for the Florida Panthers this season. He’s second in the league with a .930 save percentage and has been a key reason why the Panthers remain only one point out of a playoff spot in the East.
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