The 2018-19 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Awards? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but voting for the awards takes place when the regular season ends. There is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is presented annually to the “Best Defensive Forward ” in the NHL for that season, as voted by the members of the PWHA.
Predictions for 2018-19 Selke Trophy
Sidney Crosby, 79 GP, 35G, 65A, 100PTS
We all know that Crosby’s trophy cabinet is brimming with Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and individual awards. However, he’s never nailed down a Selke Trophy. There seems to be a groundswell for a “Crosby for Selke” campaign.
However, those calls do hold merit. The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native is at 55.5 percent on faceoffs and has a 6.6 Corsi relative to his teammates. His expected goals against of 52.1 percent — the metric that averages out goals based on shot location and quality.
Crosby’s offence will always get headlines, but his defensive game should be appreciated more. A Selke Trophy win would do that.
Ryan O’Reilly, 82 GP, 28G, 49A, 77PTS
The St. Louis Blues centre has been excellent at creating possession changes in the offensive zone. He’s arguably the best forechecker in the league. O’Reilly has been one of the forces behind the Blues second-half revival.
He’s been great at faceoffs with a 56.9 success rate and 50.5 expected goals against rate. O’Reilly has also taken on the opponents’ best line and flourished. His impact is felt throughout so many advanced statistical categories.
The Clinton, Ontario native has found new life in St. Louis and should draw some Hart Trophy consideration.
Mark Stone, 77 GP, 33G, 40A, 73PTS
It would be the first time a winger will have claimed the award since Jere Lehtinen won the last of three Selkes in 2002-03. Wingers don’t often win the award because centremen winning faceoffs is a premium statistic. The award has only gone to a wing seven times since 1981. Former Montreal Canadiens great Bob Gainey dominated the Selke for the first four years of the trophy’s existence before pivots took over the award.
Stone doesn’t usually do faceoffs because face-off winning percentage is usually a key component. Wings also don’t get to engage puck-handlers as much as centres. However, Stone is a special kind of winger. He and O’Reilly are the best at creating possession changes. The Vegas Golden Knights forward has dubbed the Patrice Bergeron of wingers by places like Sportsnet.
Although it’s a defensive forward award, offensive prowess has seemingly been added to the award. Stone possesses that with his 33 goals and 40 assists for 73 points. The Winnipeg native also deserves consideration for dragging his old Ottawa Senators line to respectability before being shipped to Sin City. He limited high-danger chances and passes in the slot in even-strength situations.
LAS VEGAS, NV – JUNE 20: Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings poses with the Frank J. Selke trophy given to the top defensive forward in the press room at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)