Given to the forward the Professional Hockey Writers' Association voters feel "demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game," the Selke Trophy has historically been given to the most successful offensive player who also happens to be pretty darn good at winning faceoffs and putting up big plus-minus numbers.
It's a tough one to vote on because based on the NHL's definition, you could give your nod to the biggest shot-blocking forward regardless of his position and technically be just as accurate.
But top players face top players more and more these days in the NHL, as opposed to a third-line checking unit designed to shut down the other team's best line as it often was in the pre-lockout days. That means your stars have to be accountable in their own end.
Some do it exceptionally better than others. Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron have won it the last six seasons, and two of them will be among the front-runners again this year.
Winner: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar may finally get his due recognition from a voting contingent that is largely based in the east and does not get the opportunity to see him play very often, in person or on TV. The Olympics and his impressive play for Team Slovenia in Sochi may have opened a few more eyes to just how good the Kings center is.
He is the Kings' best offensive and defensive player all in one, plays against the best the other team has to offer, often starts shifts in his own zone, takes very few penalties, wins a lot of faceoffs, plays big minutes and doesn't let his defensive mindset take away from his offense. Although he's not a point-per-game player, he's one of the league's best overall.
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Any of these top three players could win and it would not be a surprise. It sometimes comes down to popularity and familiarity, which is part of the reason only one player on a West Coast team—Kesler—has won the Selke in more than three decades.
Bergeron and Toews are equally deserving for all the same reasons Kopitar could win.
Bergeron is on one of the best defensive teams in the league and is a key reason for it. His faceoff winning percentage is the best of the three, as is his plus/minus rating of plus-37. He is able to shut down other teams' top forwards and made Team Canada's Sochi Games squad for that reason.
Toews is the reigning Selke winner and despite a late-season injury has again been one of the most impressive defensive forwards, while also earning the most points of the three likely finalists.
Honorable Mentions: David Backes, St. Louis Blues; Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks