Dustin Byfuglien displayed the unique ability to switch from defense to offense for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009-10 Stanley Cup. His versatility helped the Blackhawks take home Lord Stanley.
That dominance and passion he displayed made him the diamond in the rough that the Atlanta Thrashers coveted and gave up a number one draft choice and a high potential prospect for.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Byfuglien’s size, speed and aggressiveness were well-utilized creating constant mismatches for the opposition.
At 6’4'' and 260 pounds, defenders in the slot could not block Byfuglien out and when playing defense his size, strength and mobility not to mention his shot create another set of problems for opposing teams.
Make no mistake the skill and mental dexterity to effectively transition from a forward to defenseman is not easy to master and has not been successfully done many times in the history of the NHL.
Players like, Doug Harvey Red Kelly, JC Trembley, Pat Stapleton, Mark Howe and Larry Robinson were a few who successfully made the transition.
The position of defense is the second toughest after goaltender to master. Very often NHL defensemen have played the position since they were children.
Reading offensive configurations and mastering defensive skills such a shot blocking and body checking sometimes requires years of preparation to properly master. Still after years of playing the position defenseman have the most difficult time adjusting to the NHL.
Dustin Byfuglien gained experience as a defenseman and forward in junior hockey where his size was used to create advantages for his team.
Originally a defenseman he was converted to a right wing position to give the team a larger body near the net, an experiment that has proven successful throughout his short career in the junior ranks as well as pro hockey.
The forward excelled in his third professional season, becoming the first Rockford Ice Hog player to earn the American Hockey League's (AHL) Player of the Week award, when he scored one goal and had five assists in four games.
Byfuglien scored seven points in eight games with Rockford. After being recalled in November to the Chicago Blackhawks he never returned to Rockford.
He netted a goal in his first shift with the Blackhawks in the 2007–08 NHL season against the St.Louis Blues and notched his first career hat trick against the Phoenix Coyotes.
He finished tied for fifth on the team with 19 goals and 36 points in his third season with the team, all while making the transition to right wing.
General Manager Rick Dudley may see similarities in Byfuglien than he saw in his playing days in standout Montreal Canadian rearguard Larry Robinson.
Robinson was also converted from forward, which endowed him with exceptional puck handling and offensive skills to go with toughness to match his 6'4" frame.
Dudley may be penciling Byfuglien in on the blue line, which will strengthen the Atlanta defense and maybe give another high potential forward an opportunity to crack the Thrashers lineup.
If the Thrashers do decide to try Byfuglien on the blue line, the Thrasher may have three defensemen with all-star ability.
Bogosian, Enstrom and Byfuglien with Sopel, Oduya and a number of potential candidates to fill the open slot represent a problem the Thrashers have never had before.
Let’s look at some of the NHL players who successfully made a conversion.