For 2009-10, the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk, the Canucks' Ryan Kesler and the Penguins' Jordan Staal are the finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy that is presented annually "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."
The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
"There are many outstanding wingers and centermen in the NHL who not only perform well offensively, but who also do the unsung, often unrecognized work in hockey -- doing a great defensive job," then NHL President John Ziegler said in 1977 in describing the reasons for the Selke Trophy.
Datsyuk, Kesler and Staal certainly meet the criteria.
The winner of the trophy will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.
Here is a closer look at the finalists.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
In a season in which Datsyuk experienced a 27-point drop from 2008-09, he was still on top of his game defensively. Datsyuk is the two-time defending Selke Trophy champ and is looking to join Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau and Jere Lehtinen as the only players to win the award at least three times.
Datsyuk recorded 132 takeaways to lead the League for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
"I don't know how many times he's back-checked and taken the puck away from guys and then start us going the other way," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom told the Detroit News.
Datsyuk was 21st among all NHL forwards with a plus-17, and he recorded 89 hits and 33 blocked shots. A faceoff specialist, he won 55.1 percent (590 of 1,070) of his draws.
Despite his diminished point total of 70, Datsyuk, who was tied with teammate Henrik Zetterberg, led the Red Wings in scoring for the sixth consecutive season, the longest streak in franchise history.
He is one of four Red Wings to win the Selke, joining Kris Draper (2003-04), Steve Yzerman (1999-2000) and Sergei Fedorov (1995-96, 1993-94).
Kesler is a Selke Trophy finalist for the second-straight year. He placed third in 2008-09 behind Datsyuk and Mike Richards.
Kesler was second to Datsyuk in takeaways with 83, was seventh among all forwards with 73 blocked shots, and recorded 95 hits. He averaged 2:39 per game shorthanded, third among Canuck forwards, and was first on the team in face-off winning percentage (55.1) and tied for 12th in the League. Kesler won 772 faceoffs to place ninth in the NHL and finished the season with a 55.1 winning percentage.
All this while Kesler reached new heights offensively with career highs in assists (50), points (75) and power-play goals (12), playing in all 82 games for the second-straight season. He posted a 13-game point streak from Feb. 6 through March 14, scoring 6 goals and 15 points.
"He's always had a good skill set of speed, puck control, a good shot, and a willingness to do the harder things like go to the tougher areas and block the shots," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think every year he's progressed and he's one of the best two-way players in the League."
The only other Canuck to place in the top five in Selke voting is Trevor Linden, who finished fifth in 1995-96.
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins
As dependable as they come defensively, the 21-year-old completed his fourth NHL season with a career-best plus-19 rating while appearing in all 82 games for the third straight year, leading to his first Selke nomination.
Staal's plus-minus rating was 17th among all League forwards, and he recorded 121 hits, 41 blocked shots and 41 takeaways while averaging 19:23 of ice time per game. He also led all of Pittsburgh's forwards with 3:20 of ice time per game shorthanded, posted a career-high 28 assists and tied his career-high with 49 points. Staal was second on the Penguins in faceoffs taken and had a 48.3 success rate (639 for 1,324).
"I think that to be successful you've got to have different types of players and Jordan's strength is his responsibility in his own end," teammate Matt Cooke said. "He can score goals and he's proven that. But I think that part of the way that we are able to have success is, if we're playing against a top line, to force them to play in their own end."
Staal has an active streak of 302 consecutive regular season games, second in franchise history to Ron Schock (313). On January 28, Staal became the youngest player in NHL history to appear in 300 career games (21 years, 140 days).
He is bidding to become the second Penguins player to win the Selke and the first since Ron Francis won the honor in 1994-95.