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Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, and Jonathan Toews named Selke Trophy finalists; Who wins?

Apr 27, 2011, 12:58 PM EDT

Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews AP

The Selke Trophy is always great for debate year in and year out. Well, except for perhaps the last three years when Pavel Datsyuk was seemingly the runaway favorite and took home the award. Datsyuk will again be a finalist this year but his case is a bit more compelling than in previous seasons. Never mind the intense competition he’ll have for this years honor.

Datsyuk is seeking to win his fourth straight Selke Trophy and while him being a finalist may not seem like a surprise, it kind of is. Datsyuk played in just 56 games this year thanks to injury but clearly his reputation precedes him. Scanning through some of the deeper statistics, you’ll see that this wasn’t just the case of giving the incumbent a shot at protecting his legacy. Datsyuk was 11th in the league in takeaways with 71 despite missing 26 games. Datsyuk wins 54.6% of his faceoffs as well making him a prime candidate for taking and winning defensive zone draws. Datsyuk was also a +11 in plus/minus as well if that’s your kind of thing to judge defensive players. He’s a worthy candidate and while his reputation is certainly a factor here, it’s not as if missing more than a quarter of the season makes him any less capable.

Ryan Kesler is Vancouver’s go-to guy when it comes to matching up against opponents big gun centers, just ask Chicago about that. Kesler was in the NHL’s top 20 in takeaways with 65 and he was a faceoff winning machine winning 57.4% of the draws he took. Kesler’s all round breadth of work is incredible as he was also able to score 41 goals all while being able to help shutdown opposing centers. While we’re not surprised to see a Canuck get nominated, we’re a bit surprised it wasn’t Manny Malhotra getting the nod here. That’s not to take away from what Kesler’s done this year, but if there was a player who exemplified what it was to be a defensive forward, it was Malhotra.

Jonathan Toews‘ case for the Selke is built around him being a maven in the faceoff circle and a very sneaky puck thief. Toews wins 56.7% of his draws and he was second in the NHL in takeaways with 93. Only Joe Thornton had more with 114. Toews is a bit of a surprise nominee in that when the talk goes up about the top defending forwards his name doesn’t immediately come to mind. That’s not to say he’s not worthy here, it’s just caught us a bit off guard. His work in the playoffs last season certainly gave us inklings as to his ability there. His regular season résumé this year was certainly impressive enough for the voters but we’re doubting he’s even a real threat to win the award this year.

A pair of names we’re surprised to see left off are Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. Both guys have been outstanding in their roles matching up against opposing top lines and in the case of Nielsen he’s done it fearlessly with great results cashing in on shorthanded chances and finding ways to frustrate the daylights out of the league’s top scoring centers.

All that said, who do you like to win the Selke this year? Will Datsyuk make it four in a row? Will Toews shock the world and win his first? Or is it Ryan Kesler’s time to take home the hardware? Let us know in the comments and in our poll to tell us what you think.

  1. jsarge99 - Apr 27, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Ryan kesler hands down.

  2. polegojim - Apr 28, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    Datsyuk is simply an incredible force on the ice on both sides of the puck.

    No other forward in the league can invade, move, and score on O, then turn right around and deliver a thundering hit or brilliantly break up a rush on D.

    All this with intensity, graciousness, and poise.

    Those are seemingly impossible combinations in hockey. Pavel displays them like no other.

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