Type in the words "2015 Hart Trophy candidates" into any search engine and the same names keep being spit out over and over again.

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This article was published 19/2/2015 (2478 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Type in the words "2015 Hart Trophy candidates" into any search engine and the same names keep being spit out over and over again.

Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne has been all-world, especially of late, in leading his squad to the top of the NHL standings.

Ditto for Carey Price and his monumental impact for the Montreal Canadiens.

Chicago's Patrick Kane is often mentioned as is Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim and Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Rick Nash, Tyler Seguin, Jake Voracek, Shea Weber... all worthy of consideration.

So while we're playing this little game, let's make the case for another possible candidate as part of the discussion:

Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets.

Look, the criteria for the Hart Trophy is very clear. It is awarded annually to the "player judged most valuable to his team."

To that end, what unfolded Wednesday at the MTS Iceplex in the aftermath of the news Mathieu Perreault would likely be lost for the rest of the regular season underscores again how important the big man is to the Jets and their push to a playoff spot.

Byfuglien was back at forward during practice and may be patrolling the wing when the Jets line up against the Capitals tonight in D.C. As always, he'll play the point on the power play and be back there in four-on-four situations.

And if Drew Stafford is good to go or Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff makes a move before the trade deadline to fill some holes up front, Byfuglien will likely be back on the blue-line.

The versatile Dustin Byfuglien will be patrolling right wing again tonight after Winnipeg’s most recent injury woes.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The versatile Dustin Byfuglien will be patrolling right wing again tonight after Winnipeg’s most recent injury woes.

"We have a huge advantage, literally and figuratively, in that Dustin Byfuglien can transition up front and then be a powerful force," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "We've lost a top six forward in Mathieu and now put one back up."

Still, the uniqueness of that skillset has been discussed so often this season it almost registers nothing more than a shoulder shrug now. But it bears repeating again: what Byfuglien is providing is not only rare, it's special. And it must be said his versatility has helped save the Jets from tumbling out of the playoff picture.

So a candidate for the Hart? Heck, why not?

"He's a game changer at both spots," said winger Chris Thorburn. "He's a special talent. We're going to need him to play rover a little bit and go wherever we need him. I'm just glad he's on our team and in our lineup."

Maurice said Wednesday Byfuglien likely had an inkling he could be back up front after watching Perreault and Stafford head to the infirmary in the win over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Jets did summon Carl Klingberg from St. John's -- he was to meet the team in Washington -- but there isn't a team in the NHL that has a player who is a James Norris Trophy candidate, a power-play specialist, and when the situation arises, is also able to slide into the top six.

"First of all, he's smart, so when he saw the guys (Perreault and Stafford) leaving the ice he was probably wondering if he was going up front last game," said Maurice. "But when I talked to him today he didn't even joke around about it. He said, 'Whatever you need.'

"He's willing to do that and you see it in his play. There's no drop-off. He'd prefer to play defence, but he goes out and he competes hard and is trying to win hockey games. He's been a great, great leader in our room.

"Everybody knows Dustin would like to play 'D', but he doesn't make anybody pay for it when he's got to go up front... he'll just yell at the defence for not passing the puck better."

Yes, the mood could have been sombre -- perhaps should have been sombre -- when the Jets came to work Wednesday knowing Perreault won't be back until April.

Dustin Byfuglien changes all that. And that makes him not only this team's MVP, but a candidate for the NHL's most prestigious individual honour.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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