In the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Awards in Nashville on June 26, we here at The Oil Rig have put together our own version of the program. We voted on each of the awards, the Jack Adams Award, Lady Byng Trophy, Selke Trophy, Norris Trophy, Calder Trophy, Vezina Trophy, and Hart Trophy, to give out our own accolades.
Next up is the Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the forward voted to be the most proficient in the defensive side of the game. Will this award, historically a reputation-based recognition, find its way into some new hands again this season? Or will a familiar favourite hoist it once again?
The winner of The Oil Rig’s 2023 Selke Trophy is…
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Turns out a familiar favourite will hoist the Selke Trophy again this season. Patrice Bergeron has won five Selke Trophies in his career already, and seems to be a shoo-in to win his sixth. He has long maintained the reputation of being the best two-way forward in the league, a narrative which continues this season as The Oil Rig has him as the unanimous choice for the Selke.
Bergeron is a regular 60-point scorer who centres the team’s first line. Whoever his linemates are, it is usually a high performing line due to his ability to contribute on both sides of the puck.
According to Natural Stat Trick, amongst players with a minimum of 725 minutes played at 5v5, Bergeron is tied for the league lead with just 1.22 goals against per 60. His 71.9 goals for percentage leads the league. That particular stat is a testament to how lopsided the ratio is between his offensive and defensive contributions.
Even more impressive, he gets all the tough matchups being the top centre on the Bruins. And he can still put up the types of defensive performances that he does.
It is a legitimate question to ask how long after he retires will it take until this trophy is renamed in his honour.
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils
A new face in contention for the Selke Trophy is Nico Hischier. He has received his first votes for the award this season for his contributions to the success of the Devils. His 80 points in 81 games played was second on the team, while the defensive side of his game gained a bit of a spotlight this season.
He led the Devils with 64 takeaways and was a top performer in many of the possession metrics, hovering around 55% in Corsi for and Fenwick for percentages at even strength, according to Hockey Reference. Impressively, he does this taking on the toughest matchups against the opponent’s best players.
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
For the first time in his career, Mitch Marner has gained some significant traction for the Selke Trophy, finishing third on The Oil Rig’s ballot. It is a testament to how much he has developed the different facets of his game in recent years, and a significant moment in his career to gain this recognition for the defensive side of his game.
Marner has always been touted as a talented offensive player, a trait which has taken no hit by his improvements without the puck. He has career years both offensively and defensively. A new career high with 99 points while gaining serious votes for the Selke.
A great way to show the talent and awareness Marner is gaining on the defensive side of the game is his league leading 104 takeaways, one of just a handful of players who averaged more than one per game played over the full season.
Vote scoring: 1st Place = 10, 2nd place = 7, 3rd place = 5, 4th place = 3, 5th place = 1
The Oil Rig’s writer takes
Sean Laycock: Is there any question over who should win the Selke this season? One of the best all-around performances of his career and it could be his last season. Bergeron should go out with one final Selke to his name. Marner and Hischier have taken massive strides forward in their games and will be regular candidates in the years to come. And although Jordan Staal and Mikael Backlund do not have the star power of my top three votes, they have contributed greatly to the defensive side of their team’s game and deserve some recognition this season for how reliable and stable their presences were.
Ray Boulette: Perennial Selke nominee Bergeron takes the award while playing a key role on the historic Bruins team that plays defence first. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets no respect for his two-way play even though the Oilers play offence first. I think he should be a regular nominee for this award but Eastern media is fast asleep before he hits the ice—their loss. Also worth noting is that Boston would apparently trade their #1 defenceman for Nugent-Hopkins, if that doesn’t tell you how good #93 is on defence, I don’t know what will.
Gregory Babinski: My vote goes to the little known Noah Cates of the Philadelphia Flyers. While faceoffs are still a bit of an issue, he excelled as a defender in his rookie season. Of course, the Flyers mediocrity doesn’t help him gain more widespread recognition, but he was a standout performer regardless. Flyers Coach John Tortorella was quick to reward him with more and more ice time as the season progressed, even with modest offensive production.
Cates rose up the Flyers lineup and handled a significant workload at both ends of the ice, performing well even without veteran Selke-worthy centre Sean Couturier. Couturier was quick to recognize his’ defensive abilities, as was the league at large. His unexpected development gives the Flyers a much stronger outlook going forward, though a rebuild appears inevitable.
Michelle Nguyen: It was a pretty unanimous vote here at TOR who should get the Selke. Bergeron has been nominated twelve times and won it five times. If that isn’t enough to prove he’s worthy, I’m not sure what is.