Mark Stone was a finalist for the Selke Trophy in 2018-19, a season split between the Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights. He lost to Ryan O’Reilly, but came in second, the highest a wing has finished in that award’s voting since Jere Lehtinen won it in 2003. Considering the award went to a left wing (Bob Gainey) the first four years of its existence, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
So where, at the All-Star break and bye week for the Golden Knights, does Stone stand now? Is he still on track to repeat as a finalist, or, perhaps, finally win it, an accomplishment great two-way wings of the past 15+ years like Marian Hossa have been denied?
Well, in the PHWA’s midseason award voting, Stone was left outside of the top three, which currently consists of Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and O’Reilly (of the St. Louis Blues).
There hasn’t been a player to win the Selke without topping 50 points since 2004 (excluding Jonathan Toews’ point-per-game 48-point performance in 2013), but it should be.
We’re looking at the four players already named, plus analytics darling Zach Aston-Reese will represent the Pittsburgh Penguins’ shutdown line, who, if a line could win the Selke, would be up for it.
Stone has a few things going for him. Stone has the best takeaway count of anyone in the NHL so far this season, with a staggering 10-steal lead. He had the most takeaways last season as well, and is poised to repeat it. Stone has the best Corsi, shot share, the third-best expected goal share, second best high-danger share and has started the third-most in his own zone of anyone in this group.
O’Reilly is actually having a pretty down season in regards to his possession stats, and has been the worst member of the quintet in terms of high-danger chances against per 60 and expected goals against/60. He should likely not be a finalist again this season, although the Blues are highly likely to head to the playoffs with him as the anchor of their forward group.
Aston-Reese will not top 50 points this season. While he’s been the best of this group at suppressing shots and shot attempts, as well as expected goals and high-danger chances, his linemates likely help with that, as Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev both have excellent defensive stats as well (truly, the best shutdown line in the NHL, to the surprise of ... everyone?). While his defense is the best of this group, he will not get the votes he needs to sheerly based off his offensive production, but in a righteous world, Aston-Reese is a Selke finalist.
That leaves three real contenders for the Selke this season: Stone, Bergeron, and Couturier. Bergeron has not been placed in a defensive role this season. He’s playing with a 62.93 percent offensive zone share at even strength, and while he, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand may be the best two-way line in the league, it’s one that has been handed more offensive responsibility and is being tasked with a lot less defensive responsibility. Of the trio, Bergeron has the best xGA/60 mark, but again, 62.93 percent offensive zone.
It’s Stone versus Couturier.
This has been a less stellar year for Stone than previous ones, but he’s being tasked with a 49.53 percent offensive zone start percentage, versus 51.27 for Couturier. Their stats are very similar (28.23 shots against/60 for Stone, 28.02 for Couturier; 2.48 xGA/60 for Stone, 2.22 for Couturier; 9.36 high-danger chances against/60 for Stone, 10.63 for Couturier).
Both have had excellent impacts on their respective teams’ defense, Stone creating a 11-point difference, Couturier creating a three-point difference.
Clearly, either Stone has been excellent around the net front or the Golden Knights with Stone have been excellent around the net front. And that’s where the votes for Couturier come in. Stone is playing with some pretty solid linemates defensively. Max Pacioretty is having a good season, and both Paul Stastny and Chandler Stephenson are more than capable in their own zone.
Couturier, meanwhile, plays with ... Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom (when he was healthy) and Claude Giroux. Now, all three of those wings are great offensively, and help elevate Couturier’s game in that zone. But they’re not exactly backchecking as effectively as Stephenson, who plays on the penalty kill, or even Pacioretty, who, again, has been shockingly good in his own zone this season.
Couturier is a lockdown defender playing with two players who are not that. Stone has help. For that reason, Couturier could see more votes, and while the anti-winger bias in Selke voting needs to end, this may not be the season, as Couturier is long past, well, due.
But neither of them is Aston-Reese. Vote Aston-Reese.