With the NHL Awards just around the corner, the league has been announcing the finalists for each of the subjectively awarded trophies.
The Rocket Richard will already go to Alex Ovechkin; as the leading goal scorer, it’s impossible to contest. The Art Ross is much the same; Jamie Benn led the league in regular season scoring, and will thus take home the trophy in Las Vegas this June.
For the other awards, though, the league narrows it down to three finalists at the end of the year.
The Lady Byng Trophy, given out to the player who displayed the best sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct, and excellent play during the season, was narrowed down to three finalists earlier this year. Anze Kopitar is the youngest nominee, at 27; then comes 31-year-old winger Jiri Hudler (who held down the fort on Calgary’s infamous ‘kid line’ en route to a playoff berth) and league veteran Pavel Datsyuk.
Next came the Frank J. Selke Trophy.
Awarded each season to the most defensively proficient forward in the league, it’s become the calling card for elite two-way play on offense. Selke nominations trumpet skaters who drive possession, transition defensive zone starts into offensive zone entries, and score often enough to exemplify good play near the opposition’s net, as well.
Last season, the finalists were Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, the aforementioned Lady Byng finalist and L.A. Kings alternate captain Anze Kopitar, and Boston Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron; with some of the league’s best all-situation numbers and a thirty-goal season, Bergeron took home the award in 2014.
This June, Bergeron will get a chance to defend his title — against none other than Toews and Kopitar. This is Bergeron’s fourth consecutive season as a finalist (he took home the award in 2012 and 2014), while Toews is on his third straight season as a finalist after winning in 2013 and receiving his first of four nods for the award back in 2011. Kopitar has only been nominated twice.
The league used to use rudimentary stats and the ‘eye test’ to determine which forwards were most deserving of the accolades, but it seems the eye test and advanced possession metrics agree when it comes to Selke nods. The only players whose possession stats — particularly when looking at shot attempts for and against — put them in competition with the two-year trio were Pavel Datsyuk (former Selke winner and nominee, who only played a partial season), Marian Gaborik, and Joe Thornton.
Bergeron led the league in faceoffs and win percentages (while maintaining a strong scoring record and positive metrics in all situations), all while leading his team in scoring — something the three nominees all have in common. They’re also all consistent producers in short-handed situations, and manage to maintain strong possession driving stats over the course of time.