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Ryan Kesler of Ducks making case for Selke Trophy

2011 winner excelling defensively, producing offensively for Anaheim

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- When center Ryan Kesler won the Selke Trophy, he was in the middle of his long tenure with the Vancouver Canucks and Randy Carlyle was coaching the Anaheim Ducks … for the first time.

In fact, Kesler's 6-year-old son, Ryker, the trending sensation from the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition, was born during that Selke Trophy-winning season.

In other words, it was a long time ago. At least in hockey terms. 

That was 2010-11, when the Canucks went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Boston Bruins. By the time Kesler was traded by the Canucks to the Ducks in 2014, Carlyle was gone.

Carlyle is back in Anaheim, coaching Kesler for the first time since they were with Manitoba of the American Hockey League in 2004-05. Carlyle has watched the 32-year-old center through 52 games this season, during which he has 18 goals and a team-leading 40 points, and feels he is the front-runner for the Selke, awarded to the top defensive forward in the NHL.

"It's hard to pass up Ryan Kesler," Carlyle said Tuesday. "From my perspective, I don't know if there's a better player that fits that mold and that has had that type of season, an award-winning season. Again, we're being selfish but we have a right to be selfish because we see it day in, day out.

"There's no ifs, ands, or buts in our determination in what he brings day in and day out.

"The minutes he's played; he's up two minutes (average ice time per game). With the offense he's provided, the shutdown ability he's provided and the type of minutes he does garner, it's hard to overlook."

Understandably, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau is just as adamant about his guy, the gifted two-way center Mikko Koivu (plus-26), and was doing his promotional bit, highlighting the virtues of Koivu during Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

The race for the Selke is wide open, largely because of the early-season struggles by 2016 winner Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and runner-up Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins. However, Kopitar has been trending up with nine points in his past seven games, and had a hand in all three goals in the Kings' 3-2 victory at the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

In addition to Kesler and Koivu, there are a couple of other fresh faces worthy of Selke consideration: Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames, their leading scorer and center on their shutdown line with veteran Michael Frolik and rookie Matthew Tkachuk.

There is precedent for winning the Selke several years apart and with two teams; Michael Peca won in 1997 with the Buffalo Sabres and in 2002 as a member of the New York Islanders.

Kesler is three goals from matching his total for all of last season (21). The Ducks' best line this season has been Kesler between Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg; the absence of Silfverberg with an upper-body injury was noticeable in the three games before the All-Star break. Silfverberg returned on Tuesday and had two goals and an assist in the Ducks' 5-1 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at Honda Center.

Video: ANA@COL: Kesler takes advantage of Varlamov's error

Kesler had an assist, was plus-1 and won 17 of 24 faceoffs against Colorado. He leads Ducks forwards in average ice time (21:45) and is second with a plus-12 rating.

In addition to winning the Selke in 2010-11, when he had 73 points (41 goals, 32 assists), Kesler has been nominated four other times, including last season.

"I think he's the clear winner right now," Ducks forward Nate Thompson said. "I don't want to sound biased, but in every aspect of the game, everything he's done, you look at what [the line] has done for our team this year. They've carried us, in a way, and [Kesler] has been the leader in that department."

Those attributes were recognized with Kesler's All-Star selection, his first since 2011. But on Saturday, the all-star became a proud hockey dad with a smartphone in hand at the skills competition, catching an exceptional family memory when Ryker scored against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

Ryker apparently was all in by the time the weekend ended, his dad said at the morning skate on Tuesday.

"He's exhausted," Kesler said. "It was a long weekend for him, between the mascots and playing with them, to being on the ice and having that special experience. He's done.

"He'll probably be done for another week."

Video: Discover NHL Shootout: Mini Kesler beats Price

Ryker wasn't afraid of Price or the mascots. Kesler reported his youngest child, daughter Kinsley, doesn't like the mascots when they get close, saying: "She loves Wild Wing from across the rink."

Meanwhile, there won't be any other TV appearances for Ryker in the immediate future, dad said.

After all, he is 6.

Kesler's wife, Andrea, already has advocated a no-nonsense return to normalcy. 

"She's over it," Kesler said. "She's like, 'Move on.'"

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