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NHL Awards

Lady Byng Trophy finalists announced

MacKinnon, Matthews, O'Reilly in running for award given for gentlemanly conduct

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and Ryan O'Reilly were named finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy on Thursday.

The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, is given annually to the NHL player who best combines sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability. The winner will be announced during the conference finals. 

MacKinnon, a center, was fifth in the NHL with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) and was plus-13, leading Colorado Avalanche forwards in average ice time per game (21:13) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He was assessed five penalties totaling 12 minutes, each the fewest of his seven NHL seasons, and was tied for third in the NHL in net penalties at plus-18 (23 drawn, five taken). A first-time finalist, MacKinnon would be the third Avalanche player to win the award and first since O'Reilly in 2013-14.

The Avalanche (42-20-8, .657 points percentage) finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference and will play in the round-robin of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers with the St. Louis Blues (.662), Vegas Golden Knights (.606) and Dallas Stars (.594) to determine the top four seeds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the West.

MacKinnon was named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award on Monday. The award is given annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHL Players' Association. 

Video: MacKinnon continues to dominate for Avalanche

Matthews finished third in the League with an NHL career-high 47 goals and an NHL career-best 80 points in 70 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The center had 12 power-play goals and was plus-19, averaging 20:58 of ice time per game, second among Toronto forwards, and was assessed four minor penalties totaling eight minutes. It is the first Lady Byng nomination for Matthews, who would be the first Maple Leafs player to win the award since Alexander Mogilny in 2002-03.

"That's just kind of how I've always played the game," Matthews said. "It's not such a fun place to watch the game from in the penalty box. I prefer to spend my time not there. I'm not overly physical or kind of an in-your-face kind of player, I just kind of try to use my body position and try to use my stick."

The Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579), the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, will play the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, .579), the No. 9 seed, in one of eight best-of-5 series in the Qualifiers, with the winner advancing to the playoffs.

"It's great recognition for him," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Matthews. "He certainly deserves to be in that class in the League ... it's a great feather in his cap. When you look at what goes into it, of course the penalty minutes and the fact he plays the game with such discipline and keeps himself on the ice as often as possible. But it's not easy to do his job, he's a major focus for the opposition, plays a lot of minutes and to keep his head and stay cool and stay committed and focused on the task at hand is a credit to him and it's nice to see him have the recognition."

O'Reilly scored 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) and was plus-11, leading the League in face-off wins for the third straight season (880) and led St. Louis Blues forwards in average ice time per game (20:34). The center was assessed five minor penalties totaling 10 minutes in 71 games this season, the seventh time in his 11 NHL seasons he's taken five or fewer. He is a four-time finalist for the award, including each of the past three seasons, and was runner-up to Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers last season.

"I take a lot of pride in being hard to play against," O'Reilly said. "Try to frustrate guys and either drawing penalties or forcing them to take penalties. As a players, I do what I can to make it tough on the other guys and when I can do that and frustrate and not get penalized for it and be respected for it is obviously something I am proud of."

The Blues (42-19-10) finished with the best record in the West to qualify for the playoffs.

"He takes pride into playing hard and playing the right way, taking a lot less penalties than most players, which is really impressive because he does play down low a lot," Blues forward David Perron said. "He wants to do things well at all times on the ice. He's just a good guy to have around, a good leader."

The 2020 NHL Awards were scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed March 25. independent correspondents Louie Korac and Dave McCarthy contributed to this report

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