The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded at the end of each NHL regular season. The award, voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA), is given to the best defensive forward in the NHL. The trophy, which has been awarded since the end of the 1977-78 NHL season, is named after Frank J. Selke, former general manager of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The first player to win the award was Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens. Gainey, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992, won the trophy in each of the first four years it was presented. He is the only player to win the Selke four times, however, four players have won the Selke three times. Two of those players are retired (Guy Carbonneau and Jere Lehtinen), while Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins represent the two active three-time winners. Datsyuk won the award at the end of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons, while Bergeron won his Selkes in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
PHWA members vote on the Selke by selecting their top five players and awarding them points based on a 10-7-5-3-1 point system. Last year Bergeron won out over second place finisher, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, by just 32 points.
Will Bergeron join Gainey as a four-time winner? Will Toews win his second Selke or will a first-time winner break through this season? Read on to find out who will be in the running for the Selke at the end of 2015-16 NHL season.
5. David Backes
David Backes, the veteran center for the St. Louis Blues, always seems to be in the running for the Selke. His name first appeared in the voting in 2009-10, when he finished 49th with a single fourth place vote. By the next season, Backes had climbed to seventh. Since then he has never finished out of the top five in voting.
Backes averages just under 20 minutes of ice time per game. He is one of the best two-way centers in the game today, and his shutdown role doesn’t keep him off the scoresheet. He has scored more than 50 points in each of the last 82 game seasons. Another plus for Backes is that he rarely misses games, notching only two absences last season.
4. Jonathan Toews
The only time that Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews failed to garner a Selke vote was his rookie season. In his sophomore year, Toews finished 17th in voting. Since then he has never finished lower than sixth, winning the award in 2012-13. He was runner-up last season.
Toews has one the highest hockey IQs in the game today. He is responsible at both ends of the ice, and a beast in the face-off circle. Toews also regularly ranks among the best centers as far as his plus/minus ranking is concerned, and, as captain of the Blackhawks, is one of the best leaders in the NHL.
3. Max Pacioretty
If early season play is any indication, 2015-16 will be the year Max Pacioretty makes the leap into the top five in Selke voting. Last season was the first time the Montreal Canadiens left wing received any votes for the trophy, finishing in sixth place.
Pacioretty played in a career-high 80 games last year, tying Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in plus/minus ranking with a +38. In addition, he had a career high in average time on ice with 19:24 per game, takeaways with 43, and points with 67 (37G, 30A). Pacioretty has come out of the gate hot this season and is on pace for a career high in points; he’s also among the league leaders in plus/minus.
2. Patrice Bergeron
It’s no surprise to see the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron on this list. The 30-year-old center has already won the award three times (2011-12, 2013-14, and 21014-15) and finished as runner-up once. In the last six seasons, Bergeron has not finished lower than fifth in Selke voting.
Bergeron is one of the best face-off men in the game, winning a whopping 60.2% of his face-offs last year to lead the league. Bergeron is a player the Bruins can throw out in any situation. Even when he is matched up against the opposition’s top offensive line, which is more often than not, Bergeron can and will produce.
1. Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings has never won a Selke. He’s finished as high as second (2013-14) and has been in the top 10 each year since the 2010-11 season. So, 2015-16 may be his breakthrough year.
Kopitar usually plays more than 20 minutes per game and can be counted on to score more than 60 points per season. His face-off winning percentage has been above 52% in each of the last four seasons, and he rarely takes penalties. Last season, Kopitar led all NHL forwards in SAT (shot attempts differential), with the Kings logging 363 more shot attempts than the opposition when Kopitar was on the ice. Early this season, Kopitar is once again among the leaders in SAT.
The one factor that may lock up the award for Kopitar: if the Kings make the playoffs and the Bruins do not.