Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, Dallas Stars winger Jamie Benn and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby have been selected by their peers as finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award, which recognizes the league’s most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHLPA, the players.
The three finalists make it a certainty that this season will see a first-time winner, though there’s no clearcut favorite for the award. For both Kane and Holtby, this is their first nomination for the award, while Benn receives his second nod as a finalist. Benn was a finalist in 2014-15 for leading the league in scoring, but he was one of the runners up to Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
None of the finalists are necessarily surprising, but Kane’s nod as one of the top-three vote-getters was almost a given. Kane, 27, led the NHL in scoring by 17 points, finished second in goal scoring behind Alex Ovechkin with 46 markers and Kane’s 60 assists put him in third place behind Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton. In many ways, his season was a continuation of the previous campaign, where he was at or near the top of the league’s scoring leaders before he fell injured in late February.
If Kane takes home the award — and he’s certainly the favorite — he’ll be the first Blackhawks player to win the award and the first American-born player to win the award in its 45-year history.
Like Kane, Benn’s season was a clear continuation of his breakout season in 2014-15. Benn, 26, has flourished as captain of the Dallas Stars, and what makes his performance better this season is that he led the Stars to a much better season in 2015-16. After finishing second-last in the Central Division last season, Dallas won the Central and entered the post-season as the Western Conference’s top seed. Only the Washington Capitals boasted a better regular season record than Benn’s Stars.
One of the league’s premier power forwards, Benn surpassed his previous career-high of 87 points in 2015-16 and eclipsed the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career. He notched 41 goals and 89 points to finish second in league scoring behind Kane. If Benn continues to trend in this direction, it’s likely he finds himself with some end-of-season hardware in the near future, as the 90-point mark (and beyond) look like an inevitability for the Stars winger.
Standing between Benn and Kane, though, will be Holtby, 26, and there’s a chance he could make it back-to-back Ted Lindsay wins for a goaltender for the first time since Dominik Hasek captured the award in consecutive seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98. Holtby, who is also nominated for the Vezina Trophy, had a career-year in the first season of a five-year, $30.5-million deal.
Holtby turned in a league-leading 48 wins, which tied an NHL record set by Martin Brodeur in 2006-07. He was the only goaltender to lose less than 10 games while starting more than 41 contests for his team. His .922 save percentage was the fourth-best among goaltenders with at least 41 starts, and he posted three shutouts. Holtby’s play made him an early candidate for the Vezina and he helped lead the Capitals to their second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.
The winner of the Ted Lindsay Award will be named June 22 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.