MONTREAL - Not only did Phillip Danault establish a host of new career highs, but he proved himself to be among the best centermen in the NHL this season.
Firstly, the 26-year-old set new high marks for assists (41), points (53), differential (plus-17), faceoff wins (55.55%), and penalty minutes (39), and finished first on the team among forwards with 60 blocked shots. He also recorded his first career hat trick on December 22 against the Golden Knights in Vegas.
Video: MTL@VGK: Danault nets first career hat trick in win
Danault's performance this season was recognized in Montreal as he was awarded the Jacques-Beauchamp-Molson Trophy - given to the member of the Canadiens who played a dominant role during the regular season without earning any particular honor - for the second time in his career.
That said, the Victoriaville native didn't just stand out from the pack in Montreal, but across the NHL as well.
Danault was the player with the smallest amount of power play time among the League's top-100 point-getters in 2018-19. He collected four points in 39:05 of usage with the man advantage. The closest players by comparison are the New York Islanders' Brock Nelson, with eight points in 197:03, and Habs teammate Tomas Tatar, who also earned eight points but in 180:50.
Those kinds of numbers just help to show Danault's place in the top-100, highlighting his effectiveness at even strength.
Video: FLA@MTL: Danault buries carom off end boards
The Chicago Blackhawks' first-round pick (26th overall) in 2011 finished with the 56th-most points total at even strength with 47 this season. That places him ahead of the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, Mathew Barzal, Anze Kopitar, Jamie Benn, and Elias Pettersson, among others.
The new dad also enjoyed some success in the faceoff dot: Danault finished seventh in the League with 882 faceoff wins. He won 55.55% of his draws, ahead of Kopitar (55.1%) and Aleksander Barkov (53.7%).
No. 24 also got the job done on the penalty kill all season long: Danault's 161 faceoff wins with a man in the box are tops in the League. That's well ahead of the next contender, the Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry, who won 127 faceoffs on the PK. Danault was also the fifth-most-used forward on the penalty kill in the NHL this season (202:32).
As is well-known among Canadiens fans, head coach Claude Julien did not hesitate to deploy the Danault line against the opposition's top trios night after night. This was even more true at home, where Julien had more control over his matchups with the last change.
And yet despite constantly facing the other team's best players, the Habs pivot finished with an impressive plus-18 differential at the Bell Centre in 2018-19.
Video: Phillip Danault on the team culture this season
Compare that to the most recent nominees for the Selke Trophy and you'll see that Danault beat out Ryan O'Reilly (plus-14 at home) and Patrice Bergeron (plus-12 at home). Only winger Mark Stone had a better home differential than Danault with a plus-26.
The line of Danault, Tatar, and Brendan Gallagher combined for a plus-48 overall this season.
Video: BUF@MTL: Gallagher puts home Danault's diving pass
Tatar was a newcomer to Montreal this season and most certainly appreciated Danault's 200-foot game.
"He's a really, really good two-way player. He works extremely hard at both ends," praised Tatar when asked about his linemate at the team's end-of-season media op. "I really enjoyed playing with Phil. We became really good friends over the year, too."
It'll be interesting to see how many votes Danault gets for that Selke Trophy, which will be awarded to the League's best defensive forward on June 19 in Las Vegas.