NEW YORK – Ryan Kesler takes great pride in being one of the Vancouver Canucks best defensive players.
That’s one of the reasons why being named a finalist for the NHL’s Frank Selke Trophy means so much for the gritty forward.
“It’s exciting,” Kesler said after learning the news Tuesday. “It’s an individual award that you win because you are a defensive player and I always pride myself on that. It’s definitely something to be proud of.”
The other finalists for the award, given to the league’s top defensive forward, are Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The winner will be announced June 18 at the NHL’s awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
Kesler, 24, had career highs with 26 goals and 33 assists for 61 points this season. He also led the Canucks in takeaways (74), ranked first among forwards in short-handed ice time per game (3:19), scored a pair of short-handed goals, posted a plus-8 rating and won a team-best 54 per cent of his faceoffs (527 of 976).
Coach Alain Vigneault said the six-foot-two, 205-pound native of Livonia, Mich., has improved in his five years with the club.
“The honour is well deserved,” said Vigneault. “He’s had a really good year for us. He works hard and competed hard at both ends of the rink. Given the opportunity to have a little more of an offensive role he was able to jump on that.
“He does what he has to do for this team to have success.”
Fellow Canuck forward Alex Burrows was happy for his teammate and friend.
“I think he really deserves it,” said Burrows. “He’s worked extremely hard all year to be that kind of player.
“To be in with Datsyuk and Richards, it tells you a lot about his game.”
Datsyuk, also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy for skill and sportsmanship, is looking to become the first player to sweep both awards in consecutive seasons.
Ron Francis, back in 1995, is the only other player to claim both awards in the same year.
Datsyuk ranked second among all NHLers with 89 takeaways, was third with a plus-34 rating and won 56 per cent of his faceoffs (636 of 1,135).
Richards led all Flyers with a plus-22 rating was tops in the NHL with seven short-handed goals. On Feb. 15, he became the first player in NHL history to score three career goals with his team down two men when he did it against the Rangers.