The National Hockey League reached the first-quarter mark this week of what has already been a memorable 2011-12 season. To celebrate, the NHL.com staff is taking a look at the early favorites for each of the major NHL end-of-season trophies with the first installment of our Trophy Tracker feature. Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses. All statistics for this edition of the Trophy Trackers are as of games completed by Nov. 22.
The Lady Byng is always one of the trickier trophies to predict, and after a quarter of the 2011-12 season, several worthy candidates have thrown their hat in the ring. Among those in the race for the NHL's annual award for "skillful and gentlemanly play" are certainly two-time defending winner Martin St. Louis, as well as Dallas forward Loui Eriksson, who was nominated for the award for the first time last season.
But several other players have proven themselves worthy of the award after helping their teams on the ice and staying out of the penalty box. St. Louis' 16 points, six penalty minutes and plus-9 rating are solid enough, but they may not put him on track for a third consecutive trophy. He has plenty of competition and considering that his current offensive pace would have him finishing with 30-point dropoff from last season, it's a good bet the Lady Byng could be on another mantel next June.
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars -- After getting a taste of the NHL Awards last summer, it looks like Eriksson will be taking home some hardware if the season's first quarter is any indication. Eriksson has provided the surprising Stars with balanced scoring (he has 9 goals and 10 assists), an almost spotless record (just two penalty minutes), and his plus-11 rating shows that his offensive production doesn't come at the expense of his play on the defensive end.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks -- Captain Serious has a serious two-way game, and after a sluggish start, the youngest member of the Triple Gold Club has caught on in a big way. He has 10 points in his past six games, which now gives him 19 on the season. He has only been called for three minor penalties all season and his plus-5 is impressive for a center who is so responsible defensively that he's just as important to Chicago as a penalty killer as he is as a scorer.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings -- With some of the highest expectations the Kings have faced in years, Kopitar has been a major offensive catalyst. The Slovenian winger is on pace for what would be a career-high 94 points and has spent just two minutes in the penalty box all season. Kopitar's two-way play hasn't quite matched up with Eriksson and Toews so far -- he's a plus-1 on the season -- but if he continues to score as he has, Kopitar may very well end up at the top of this list when the season is complete.