There are lots of familiar names in this year’s Selke Trophy candidate pool and no surprises, honestly. Nominations for this trophy have always seemingly played favorites, alas the contenders are all too worthy of consideration. Let’s take a look at the names on the ballot for best defensive scoring forward across the league along with a couple names I feel should at least get some attention. Though the named candidates more than deserve it, these unconsidered players should at least get a nod for their efforts.
The perennial contender for the Selke hardware finds himself in the running for the seventh time in a row and nobody should be perplexed. The master of two-way play, Bergeron posted 30 goals and 33 assists in an injury shortened 64-game campaign. Despite his well-known defensive prowess, 2017-18 saw the Ancienne-Lorette native starting his shifts in the offensive zone 61% of the time! This career high starting percentage helps explain his very impressive 3.0 PTS/60 as part of the arguably best offensive line in the NHL with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Bergeron paced the league in CF% at 57.56 (minimum 600 games played), was sixth in face-off win percentage (57.3%), and sported his highest PDO since 2013-14 at 1023. In a nutshell, the man was as good as ever and has not shown signs of slowing down at age 32. Next season will be his age-33 campaign but fantasy managers need not fear him getting older as the ship has shown no cracks in its hull. Bergeron should be attainable at a decent draft price but do not reach for him early when you can get other’s whom pot more points overall. If in need of shots, Bergeron is a very healthy source as this past season saw him average 3.5 per game.
Anyone who has followed Couturier’s career has been waiting for the junior hockey scoring touch he possessed in his final two seasons with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL to translate at the NHL level. Though the time taken to ascend to the 70-point plateau was longer than expected, year seven was the coming out party for the Phoenix, Arizona product. Much benefited by the move to left wing for star Claude Giroux, Couturier posted 31 goals and 45 assists with a plus-34 while averaging over 21 minutes per game. Couturier only saw offensive zone starts 43% of the time speaking to his defensive acumen yet posted the highest PDO of his career (1033) and PTS/60 (2.6). Though much of his career marks can be credited to Giroux’s monstrous season, Couturier certainly elevated his game in 2017-18. As the pieces continue to fall into place for the Flyers with their impressive youth, especially on defense, look for Couturier to become the focal point in Philadelphia as Giroux exits his prime. Couturier became more of a trigger man almost doubling his shot totals from last season with 225 this time around. Do not reach for Couturier in drafts despite the great season as he’s been nothing more than a 35-40 point player until this point. Giroux plays a major role in his offensive ascendance and if they were to find themselves separated there’s not enough scoring history to suggest Couturier could still produce like this.
Slovenia’s golden child put his atrocious 2016-17 six feet underground and roared back to his elite form in 2017-18. Kopitar bested his 81-point campaign in 2009-10 by 11 points with 92 total this past year, good for seventh overall across the league in scoring. 35 of those being goals made for career highs in that mark as well. Beyond offense, he was also a force defensively, averaging over two minutes per game on the league’s top penalty killing unit. Kopitar led all forwards across the league in total ice time while averaging a ridiculous 22:05 per game. His solid 52.18 CF% and 1014 PDO speak to his ability to dominate play when deployed on the ice. Despite all this, Kopitar is a frustrating fantasy own as he has seemingly fallen into this pattern of alternating good and bad seasons much like Marian Gaborik in his prime. Still though, his ability to perform like a top option year in and year out makes him a worthy gamble even if the draft price is high. Though he will be 31 years of age at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Kopitar looks like he still has much left in the tank.
In a stupendous 11-year career I have never seen a more underappreciated player by fans and voting panels alike. Nicklas Backstrom has crossed the 70-point plateau seven times not counting the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign where he posted 48 points in 48 games and still never receives the proper appreciation. With one All-Star game appearance on his resume, the lack of recognition has become criminal and plain wrong.
Beyond being one of the most cerebral players in the game with rarely contested vision, Backstrom has posted three straight seasons with a PDO above 1025 and four straight seasons with a CF% above 50. Take away 2013-14 where he fell just short (49.3) and he’s been above 50 in the statistic every single season. The fact that he can produce elite offense year after year despite being tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top centers makes his lack of regard plain sad. 2017-18 could be considered a down season by Backstrom’s standards but he still finished the regular season on a hot streak to hit the lofty 70-point plateau. One day when Patrice Bergeron drops off perhaps the savvy Swede will finally get his name on the trophy yet alone a nod.
This kid is the real deal no ifs, ands, or buts. If you are following the playoffs, anytime the Lightning play you are bound to hear his name being mentioned. An elite skater with phenomenal edgework, Point has become a major piece in the Lightning’s puzzle in only his second season. The Boston Bruins are probably still having nightmares about Point’s line with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. Beyond a dismal Game 1, Point’s line silenced the seemingly unstoppable Bergeron unit allowing them no even strength goals the rest of the series. Couple with their shutdown of Boston’s top line, the trio produced significant offense which finds Point sitting on 16 points in 14 games played to this point. As shadow cast Backstrom is, Point is that much more so behind several household names on his squad.
Point put up an eye popping 12 game-winning goals out of his 32 total on the year. He rockets up your draft boards if you count this as well as face offs with 557 total in 2017-18. The scoring touch was there in the WHL and it looks to be translating at the highest level with 18 in his rookie season to almost double that this year. Though his track record is short, his shooting percentage and faceoff win percentage are mirror images, so year to year consistency is starting to show itself. Have Point on your radar in next year’s draft(s) as being buried behind the household names in Tampa Bay will keep his price reasonable.
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