NHL awards watch: Frank J. Selke Trophy race heats up as season comes to a close

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 22: Sean Couturier /

The Frank J. Selke trophy may not be the sexiest when it comes to the long list of NHL awards, but it is one of the most important. The race is closer than ever this season; here are the candidates most likely to challenge for the hardware.

The NHL season is winding down and award talks are heating up. While there has been some level of parity in the various NHL awards over the past few seasons, the Frank J. Selke award has not been one of them. The Selke award, given to the league’s best defensive forward, has been Patrice Bergeron’s to lose.

Bergeron has dominated this award as of late, having won four of the last six Selke awards. This year was shaping up to be more of the same, but a foot fracture late in the season opened the door for several candidates to challenge for the award. Here are your frontrunners for this year’s Frank J. Selke award.

For the purpose of this article, we will be using common player stats as well as even strength Corsi For percentage (CF percentage measuring team puck control percentage with this player on the ice). Advanced statistics for all players can be found here.

Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers)

Sean Couturier is having a breakout season in the offensive department. While he has gathered some Selke buzz in the past, his offensive numbers have never really been good enough for him to compete with the likes of Bergeron, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar.

Couturier is benefitting greatly from playing next to the pride of Hearst, Ontario, Claude Giroulx this season. Couturier boasts a solid 53.5 percent CF percentage, and currently has 63 points in 69 games, a plus-25 rating and a 53.8 percent faceoff win percentage. With perhaps his biggest competition out with injury, this could be the year he gets the nod for his first Selke Trophy.

Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)

The big question when making a case for Bergeron: Has he provided enough of a sample size this season to warrant Selke consideration?

Before his injury, Bergeron was well on his way to his record-breaking fifth Selke trophy, even garnering some Hart talk as his level of play was trending upwards as the season went on. Bergeron has 54 points in 55 games this season, along with a 56.9 percent faceoff win percentage to go with his usual defensive dominance on the ice.

Bergeron has the highest CF percentage of the four at 57.1 percent. His stats may still be enough to put him in the mix, especially if he can return for a few games before the end of the regular season. The chances of Bergeron getting the Selke this season are slim, but due to his sheer past dominance in this category, it’s hard to leave him out of the conversation.

Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)

2015-16 Selke winner and perennial challenger Anze Kopitar still has a good shot to win the award this season. Though the Los Angeles Kings are narrowly holding on to the last wild card spot in the west, they likely would not be in the playoff picture this season without great play from their star center.

Kopitar is having a great offensive season, with 74 points in 68 games and a 53.8 faceoff win percentage. He currently has the lowest CF percentage of the three, at 52.5 percent; however this still may be enough to get him his second Selke award. It’s worth noting that he would easily win an award for the player with the name most resembling a Slovenian metal band.

Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)

The 21-year-old is having his best season for a team making a serious playoff push. Barkov’s numbers are almost identical to those of Anze Kopitar. He has 68 points in 69 games, a 54 percent faceoff win percentage and a 52.4 percent CF percentage.

Barkov has been playing incredibly as the Panthers try to move into a wild card spot. If you had to choose a player most likely to take over Bergeron’s Selke dominance in the future, it would be Barkov. There is nothing stopping him from winning the award this season.

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Sean Couturier. Couturier has always had top level defensive skills, but he’s improved so much offensively this season that it is impossible to ignore him in the Selke conversation. As much as I’d love to see Patrice Bergeron hold the outright record for Selke wins, it’ll have to wait until next year.