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 Center 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.
Today: our choices for each team in the Eastern Conference.
Andy Greene, New Jersey D -- He's got the everyman name and he's with an organization famous for preferring its players non-famous, but Greene is so good, he could end up on the U.S. Olympic team. Undrafted -- a trend of our list of MUVPs -- Greene emerged Devils style, out of nowhere after four years at Miami (Ohio).
Sean Bergenheim, New York Islanders LW -- He'll never put up the stats to match his first-round pedigree, but the relentless Finn has a habit of jump-starting whatever line he is placed on. Scouts love him and would love to see their GMs pluck him from the Islanders. He's not going anywhere for a while.
Artem Anisimov, New York Rangers C -- The Rangers are struggling mightily over the last month, but that hasn't brought the rookie Russian down. He started the season on the fourth line and continues to earn John Tortorella's confidence a little more each week. If the Rangers turn it around, the gifted Anisimov will be part of the solution.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia RW -- The polar opposite of Matt Carkner (see below), Giroux is a former first-round pick with world-class playmaking skills. Still, he gets our choice for Flyers MUVP because he flies under the radar of his big-name teammates and is delivering on his promise despite the challenge of expectations in Philadelphia.
Michael Rupp, Pittsburgh C -- We would have made this selection even before his hat trick in New York on Monday. A former first-round pick miscast as a power forward, Rupp has become an invaluable fourth-line forward who sticks up for his teammates and uses his hands to bang in a big goal. A very savvy free agent signing by GM Ray Shero.
Byron Bitz, Boston RW -- He's more than just a cool alliterative name -- even better when you say "Boston's Byron Bitz." He's one of those inspirational bottom-six forwards who makes his team better because they see how hard he works and how much he improves with each game. In just his third pro season after a four-year run at Cornell, Bitz will be a longtime Beantown favorite.
Paul Gaustad, Buffalo C -- A league-leading 63.6 percent faceoff prowess is the one obvious stat to show how invaluable Gaustad is to the Sabres' battle back to Eastern contention. Gaustad is tough, clutch, versatile -- one of the best role players in the NHL.
Matt Carkner, Ottawa D -- Humble stats (2-3-5 in 25 games, +3, 19 minutes of ice per), but one of the easiest choices. After spending all of this decade in the minors, the 6-4, 230-pound Carkner won a roster spot this year in Ottawa and plays every game like it could be his last. Opponents may hate him, but he's an easy guy to root for.
Ian White, Toronto D -- The pickings may be slim on the Maple Leafs, but that does not diminish White's play. He produces offensively and on a roster full of minuses, his plus-four should get White some kind of award.
Pavel Kubina, Atlanta D -- Villified in Toronto when the ship started to sink, rejuvenated in Atlanta and appreciated for the B-plus all-zone defenseman he is. Does not get the attention flashy puck-mover Tobias Enstrom and standout sophomore Zach Bogosian get, but this says it all: Kubina is second on the team in icetime (22:36), first on the team in plus/minus (+16).
Chad Larose, Carolina RW -- When teams are going through bad times like the Hurricanes are right now, even your hardest-working grinders are not going to look good. But know this: at least half the league would like to have a heart-and-soul, Stanley Cup-winning veteran like Larose on their third or fourth lines.
Michael Frolik, Florida C -- While many of the Panthers' skilled young players have not progressed on time, the 21-year-old Czech may be ahead of schedule. He's a not a big name around the league because his team is perennially a year away, but Frolik is 7-7-14 in 27 games and could be on the verge of a breakout.
Zenon Konopka, Tampa Bay C -- Fought everyone in the minors the most of this decade, now keeping the peace and sparking the Lightning for eight minutes in each of 25 games this season. So what if he's got just two assists and 108 penalty minutes? Another one of those irresistible NHL stories.
Eric Fehr, Washington RW -- Hard work led him to the reward of placement on Bruce Boudreau's second line and now he has 10 points in his last 11 games. The 6-4 Fehr, like most power wings a little slow to develop, could become a vital part of the Capitals' bid to get out of the East.