Hometown: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Drafted: Eighth round (245th), 2003 Entry Draft
Dustin Byfuglien, or “Big Buff” as he’s called for obvious reasons, came to the Jets (the Atlanta Thrashers at the time) on June 24, 2010. The Chicago Blackhawks had just won their first Cup in 49 years and celebrated by disassembling their team. Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu were sent to Atlanta for Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin and two draft picks (which became Kevin Hayes and Justin Holl). Though Morin stands to play quality minutes in the NHL, Byfuglien was the centerpiece of the trade and quickly became a fan favourite in Atlanta, and now in Winnipeg. The trade was a precursor to the Andrew Ladd swap – deals that saw the Jets’ land their future captain and assistant captain.
With a slap shot that clocks over 100mph, and the kind of gargantuan net presence that only a 265 pound player can provide, it’s difficult to decide whether to play Byfuglien on the point, his original position, or as a power forward. To both maximize his ice time and big shot, the Jets choose to play their assistant captain on the point, a move which has collected Byfuglien 106 points in two seasons at his natural position.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Byfuglien was drafted in the final round of the 2003 Draft; the Blackhawks essentially rolling the dice on the Big Buff’s size and potential. The gamble paid off as Byfuglien would become an everyday player in the ’07-’08 season. But Buff’s potential was never fully realized until the ’09-’10 playoffs when he would collect 16 points to go along with his five game winning goals. Byfuglien became a dominant force, and a desirable trade commodity.
In the two seasons since the trade Byfuglien has been selected to the All-Star Game twice – last year as the Jets’ only participant, though he didn’t play due to injury.
Byfuglien’s accolades speak for themselves, but what is needed out of him in Winnipeg is steady play at the point and consistent production on the power play. Byfuglien is the centerpiece of the team’s PP and when’s he’s not counting points the team has a difficult time winning hockey games. Last year the Jets ranked 12 with the man-advantage, a ranking that coach Claude Noel will be looking to improve.
Last year Byfuglien tied his career total in points at 53, though he only played in 66 games. The Jets are hoping for Big Buff to play in more games this year, and tally over 60 points. If these sorts of numbers can be reached you’ll also see big-time production from power play mainstays Evander Kane and Tobias Enstrom – and the Jets’ flirting with the playoffs.