The selections are based on recommendations by more than a dozen pro scouts who frequent the press boxes for games at Madison Square Garden, the Prudential Centre and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. One stat that you'll find most of our MUVPs have in common: their coaches play them a lot.
We start with our choices for each team in the Western Conference. On Thursday, we'll shine a light on some unheralded players in the East.
Brent Seabrook, Chicago D -- The Blackhawks are so loaded with talent, it's hard to find a player in the shadows. While he gets his share of praise, Seabrook gets the nod. As defensive partner Duncan Keith may be close to signing a career-long contract, Seabrook gives Joel Quenneville 24 minutes of superb play. As a bonus, he has both of Chicago's overtime goals this season.
Fedor Tyutin, Columbus D -- The key piece in the Nikolai Zherdev trade with the Rangers, Tyutin has developed into a top defenseman for the Blue Jackets. The dazzling skater has one goal and 14 assists in 27 games this season and is capable of even more offense.
Brad Stuart, Detroit D -- On a team of Olympians, Stuart receives very little credit for his 22 minutes a game of reliable defense. But if the Red Wings can find a way to overcome injuries and a partial decline (burnout?) in their game, Stuart will be essential in the spring.
Joel Ward, Nashville RW -- Another undrafted, self-made player, the 29-year-old Ward has now developed from fourth-liner to the Predators' sixth-leading scorer and one of the team's most effective defensive forwards. As a result, coach Barry Trotz is giving Ward more than 18 minutes a game.
Jay McClement, St. Louis C -- Going back to his junior days with Brampton, McClement has never been a big scorer. But he seems to have the knack (and the work ethic) to jump-start his skilled teammates when they are placed on his line. A very good checking line center, faceoff man and young leader, McClement has been one of the few consistent Blues this season.
Eric Nystrom, Calgary LW -- Maybe the Flames hoped for a second-line forward when they drafted Bobby's son 10th overall in 2002, but Nystrom has become a vital intangibles player and fan favorite in Calgary. He does all the dirty work, mostly from the third and fourth lines, and should get between 15-20 goals this season.
Cody McLeod, Colorado LW -- The 6-2 scrapper has had to prove himself every step of the way. Undrafted out of junior, McLeod spent time just four years ago in the East Coast League. You don't find many 15-goal, 150-penalty minute players in the NHL in this era.
Steve Staios, Edmonton D -- While many of their youngsters are maddeningly inconsistent, the Oilers know what they have in their 36-year-old workhorse. Staios played at least 80 games in four of the last five seasons for Edmonton and continues to set an example of professionalism for the franchise.
Greg Zanon, Minnesota D -- On a Wild team in which it's difficult to find a player besides Mikko Koivu meeting expectations, this stay-at-home defenseman excels by keeping it simple for 22 minutes a game.
Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver D -- Everyone in Vancouver knows Bieksa's name because he hits, gets in the occasional fight and is capable of putting up 40 points from the blue line. For the last two years, teams asked for him in trades. Bieksa has become so good and so popular, GMs don't bother asking anymore. Outside of Vancouver, Bieksa is a prototypical Most Unsung Valuable Player.
James Wisniewski, Anaheim D -- Acquired in March from Chicago in the Sammy Pahlsson trade, the "Wiz" gives the Ducks 24 minutes of strong two-way play from the blueline every night. He is 1-13-14 in 21 games this season.
Jamie Benn, Dallas LW -- Time to acknowledge a rookie. Selected 129th overall by Dallas just two years ago, Benn has shot straight from the WHL Kelowna Rockets to the Stars and is 4-11-15 in 27 games this season. Just 20 years old, he's one of the biggest reasons why Dallas is a surprise 12-8-7.
Wayne Simmonds, Los Angeles RW -- No matter who his linemates are, Simmonds is often most responsible for creating scoring chances. Now the lanky 21-year-old has goals in three straight games, giving him a stat line of 8-8-16 in 28 games. All of his points have come at even-strength. He is also an LA-leading plus-9.
Joe Pavelski, San Jose C -- Without a doubt the most offensively productive player on this list, Pavelski is even more of a secret weapon now behind the high-wattage Sharks stars like Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. After missing a month with a hand injury, Pavelski is 3-9-12 in 14 games. Like the rest of the Sharks, he'll really make a name for himself if he can produce in the playoffs.