When you think of the Red Wings and all of their Stanley Cups, you think of Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and even Brett Hull. But would they have won those Cups without The Grind Line? Can you even name the members of The Grind Line? Probably not, but without Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Joey Kocur and later on, Darren McCarty, those teams wouldn't be the same.
That's what it takes to win in this League -- contributions from surprising sources or from guys who are just playing better than expected.
Here are eight players I've seen this year who impress me not only as someone who played goaltender in this League, but as someone who watches them every night as a broadcaster/analyst:
Defense - DAL
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 6
SOG: 21 | +/-: 6
SOG: 21 | +/-: 6
Richard Park, F, Pittsburgh Penguins -- He's always good. He's just a good pro. How did the Islanders let a guy like that go? He's versatile, cheap, a leader and a true pro. The Penguins value him and he's a bargain at $550,000 on a two-way deal. They can play him on the third line, fourth line, power play, penalty kill. He's a very skilled guy and a steal for Ray Shero.
Eric Belanger, C, Edmonton Oilers -- He's been very good and in the same way Park has. He's been terrific on faceoffs, winning 60.3 percent of them. Last season the Oilers won 44.2 percent of their draws, worst in the League. With Belanger in the fold, they've won 50.2 percent. He's also been excellent on the PK. The Oilers are killing 91.4 percent of penalties, fourth in the League, after finishing 29th last year at 77 percent. He's a detailed-oriented, three-zone, high-character player.
Alexander Burmistrov, C, Winnipeg Jets -- He might be the best underrated player in the league. He's the best player on the Jets so far. He has an unbelievable hockey sense, high skill set. He can make plays in traffic or open ice. The kid has no fear. He's still only 20, but here's a guy where if he's on the ice, he jumps off the ice when you're watching.