|Datsyuk became the fourth Red Wings forward in franchise history to win the Selke when he took it home last June. |
– Kris Draper knows what it takes to be called the best two-way player in the game. After all, he was recognized once as the league’s best defensive forward, winning the Frank Selke Trophy following the 2003-04 season.
So when Draper speaks of high-scoring Pavel Datsyuk
’s innate ability to equally shine as the league’s best defensive forward, he does so with similar credentials as a past award recipient.
As expected Tuesday, the NHL announced that Datsyuk is one of three finalists for the prestigious award, which is annually voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular-season. He won the award last season, receiving 62 votes – including 43 first-place votes – on the 134 submitted ballots.
Datsyuk's competition for this year's Selke are Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler.
Datsyuk became just the second player in NHL history to capture both the Selke and Lady Byng awards last season, following Pittsburgh's Ron Francis (1995), and he could become the first player to sweep them in consecutive years. He ranked second among NHL players in takeaways with 89, placed third in plus-minus rating (+34), and won 56 percent of his face-offs.
“He’s taken the Selke Trophy to a whole other level, lets clarify that right off the hop,” said Draper of Datsyuk. “What he does at both ends of the ice is unbelievable. To me, not only should he win the Selke Trophy, but he should be the MVP of the league with the Heart Trophy.”
For the second consecutive season, Datsyuk neared the 100-point plateau with identical 97-point effort, finishing fourth among league scoring leaders with 32 goals and 65 assists.
But it’s what he’s able to accomplish on the defensive end of the ice that leaves opponents and teammates equally amazed.
“It’s not often that you’re impressed with one guy with the moves and the patience that he shows out on the rink. But he is definitely one of them,” Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson said. “He does stuff like all over the ice that no one else can do. And he picks pucks away from the other guys regularly. Not just once in awhile, it’s like all the time.
“But that comes with hard work and he skates really good.”
The Red Wings have had a slew of great defensive-minded forward in the past, including Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman and Draper – all past Selke winners -- to name a few. The Red Wings’ organization has produced more Selke winners (four) than any other NHL club since the award’s inception in 1978.
Datsyuk could be the fifth player in league history to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Montreal’s Bob Gainey (1978-81) and Guy Charbonneau (1988-89), Dallas’s Jere Lehtinen (1998-99), and Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour (2006-07).
The Selke winner will be announced at the NHL Award Show from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas on June 18.
“You can put him in every situation and you’re in fantastic shape,” Draper said. “Weather you need to win the faceoff at the end of the game in the defensive zone or the offensive zone to score a goal, Pav’s your guy, which to me makes him your most valuable player.”
For the last three seasons, Datsyuk has demonstrated his pesky thievery on the defensive end compiling 340 takeaways during that time. He is the only player in the league to amass more than 100 steals in a season since the 2006-07 campaign.
“He’s sneaky,” Samuelsson said. “(Players) don’t expect him to do it. But he’s really strong. He has great timing.”
This season, Datsyuk finished second to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in takeaways, 94-89. But clearly his unselfish leadership, scoring potency and back-checking ability set Datsyuk apart from his peers.
“There’s going to be some great players, you look at Ryan Kesler in Vancouver, who had a great year. Mike Richards in Philadelphia had a great year,” Draper said. “Then you look at what Pav can do. Guys in this room were definitely pulling for him to get to that 100 (point) mark. He just continues to get better. As he does in the regular-season he continues in the playoffs. That’s the one thing that Pav takes great pride in, is this time of year.”
Draper knows the difficulty involved on being a tremendous two-way player. He worked hard in making himself a better player, and he sees the same determination and dedication in Datsyuk.
“I think it was just a matter of one, getting more ice time, two getting more confident with his game, that’s something that we have seen here in the last three to four years,” Draper said. “Just how comfortable he is; we’ve seen that in the dressing room. He’s a great teammate. The guys can’t believe how hard he does work. It’s unbelievable. Every year he just continues to get better. Weather he sets personal goals for himself or not, he just goes out and he stays within the team concept.
“He’s such an unselfish hockey player. That’s probably the only reason he won’t get the Hart Trophy. He goes out there and does his 50-60 seconds on the power play and then the next guy goes out. That’s what, to me, makes Pav even that much more special is that he’s so unselfish. Just everything that he does is just awesome to see.”