Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, plucked from the cap room-starved Chicago Blackhawks this summer, is off to a historic start for the franchise.
It took him just 31 games to break the Thrashers’ team record for goals by a defenseman in a season.
Before this year Byfuglien has played on the wing for most of his career and had never scored more than 19 goals in a season. He’d never scored more than 36 points in a year either, a number he’s already matched this year — while playing defence.
It’s a unique case. Byfuglien would be a restricted free agent following the year and the Thrashers must come to an agreement with their star player. But there isn’t recent precedent for a player having this much success after switching positions — from forward to defence where point totals would normally decline — during a contract year.
Byfuglien leads the NHL in goals, assists, and points by a defenseman and is a healthy plus-10 on the season. If he keeps this pace up he’d finish with a jaw-dropping 27 goals and 55 assists on the year, the most points by a defender since 1995.
The Thrashers might have little choice but to make Byfuglien one of the highest-paid defenders in the league. Not a great prospect for attendance and cash-starved teams.
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