After finishing as the runner-up for three consecutive seasons, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis finally won the Lady Byng Trophy -- awarded for "skillful and gentlemanly play" -- last season, scoring a decisive victory over the Dallas Stars' Brad Richards with 74 of the 132 first-place votes cast.
St. Louis figures to be a candidate yet again when the 2010-11 season concludes, but he'll have his share of competition, with an ageless defenseman in Detroit and an underrated forward from the defending Stanley Cup champion figuring to be among the players challenging him for the hardware.
With only a quarter of the season in the books there's still a lot to shake out before the Lady Byng (possibly) changes hands. NHL.com's John Kreiser forecasts where the trophy will end up at season's end.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
The Lady Byng has historically been the property of skilled forwards. No defenseman has won it since Red Kelly with Detroit in 1954. Another Red Wing, Nicklas Lidstrom, is on track to be the second. At age 40, Lidstrom is playing as well as ever -- through the Wings' first 18 games, he has 3 goals and 20 points, tying Colorado's John-Michael Liles for the most points among defensemen. His 17 assists are fourth among all players in the League, and he's done it all while taking just four minor penalties, averaging 24:19 of ice time every night and serving as captain of one of the NHL's elite teams.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
St. Louis is another oldie-but-goodie who's off to a terrific start. The 35-year-old is a big reason for the early-season success of 2008 first-rounder Steven Stamkos and is on the way to the highest-scoring season of his career -- pretty good for a guy who already owns an Art Ross Trophy as scoring champ. Through 21 games, St. Louis has 8 goals and 27 points, putting him on pace for a career-best 105-point season.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
Amid all the inconsistencies the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have exhibited in the first quarter of the season, Sharp is one player who's on pace for a career season. The 28-year-old has 12 goals and 22 points in 21 games while taking only two minor penalties. Sharp has also shown he can play in all situations -- he has 4 power-play goals but has also scored twice while shorthanded. He has shown he has the two-way ability to play anywhere among the top-six forwards, and is arguably Chicago's best penalty-killer up front.