A quarter of the way through the season there have been many surprises, whether it has been players or teams. One of those surprises is center Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild, who is the pick to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward.
When analyzing advanced stats, which play a big factor in determining the Selke Trophy finalists and winner, Koivu has excelled. He ranks seventh in shot attempts percentage at 5-on-5 (SAT%) at 58.94, and is tied for first in SAT Relative, a ratio of on-ice SAT% vs. off-ice SAT% (13.6). Koivu has won 54.6 percent of his faceoffs (253 of 463) and has been equally as impressive in defensive-zone faceoffs. He's taken 141 defensive-zone faceoffs and has won 51.8 percent.
His SAT percentage in close games (tied or one-goal difference) is 63.05 (second among forwards) and in tie games he ranks first (65.17).
Koivu, 32, is having a great season offensively and defensively. In addition to having four goals and 18 points in 19 games, he's only taken two minor penalties and is a staple on the penalty kill (1:12 of shorthanded ice time per game). He leads Wild forwards in total ice time (387:06) and ice time per game (20:22), and is second in points.
His rankings near the top in all important categories are why Koivu is the favorite to win the Selke a quarter of the way through the season.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Kopitar has been a Selke finalist in each of the past two seasons and this could be the one where he breaks through and wins the trophy for the first time.
Kopitar's SAT percentage is 57.84. He's always at the top of the NHL in faceoffs, and this season is no different with 217 wins in 427 attempts (50.8 percent). His 56.5 percent in defensive zone faceoffs leads the Kings and Kopitar averages a whopping 2:28 of shorthanded ice time per game, a big reason why Los Angeles is seventh in penalty-killing percentage (84.3) and third in goals allowed per game (2.19). Kopitar also has only taken three minor penalties this season.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens: Twenty-eight of the 37 Selke winners have been centers, including the past 11. The last non-center to win was right wing Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars in 2003. Pacioretty is making a strong case to be the next this season.
In 21 games, Pacioretty's SAT percentage is 56.79, 19th among forwards who've played at least 10 games. He averages 1:26 shorthanded ice time per game, has a shorthanded goal this season and is a big reason the Canadiens rank second in penalty-killing percentage (86.8) and fifth in goals allowed per game (2.23). He also has 11 goals, 20 points and is a plus-8 with only eight penalty minutes.
What will probably hurt his chances is he doesn't take faceoffs; Pacioretty has only taken four this season, but he is one of the most productive defensive forwards in the game, especially among wings.
ALSO IN THE MIX: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres