Vegas Golden Knights’ Mark Stone has never won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. He’s never even been a finalist, although he has received votes for the last four seasons, finishing as high as sixth in 2016-17.
In the 2018-19 season, Stone was a part of a blockbuster trade between the Ottawa Senators and the Golden Knights. Between both teams, Stone was a threat offensively and tough to beat defensively. His work this season earned him his first Selke nomination and at the very least, he’ll be a finalist. But Stone deserves more than being a finalist for this season; he deserves to win.
Stone Excelled With the Senators
Stone played the majority of the season with the Senators, and if he finished the season with them, that likely wouldn’t have changed his nomination for the Selke. Stone was the leader of Ottawa and performed at both ends of the rink on a last-place NHL team.
Offensively, Stone led the team in goals (28) and points (62) for the entire campaign, even though he played in 59 games with the Senators. He contributed on both the power play (2:39 per game) and the penalty kill (1:19 per game) while leading all forwards in time on ice (20:34). His defensive statistics are almost more impressive over that time.
On a team that finished last in the league in goals against (301) and second-last in goal differential (minus-31), Stone was a team-leading plus-13. Not only that, but for players who played 30 or more games with the Senators, only Stone and Christian Wolanin (30 games, plus-three) finished the season with a positive plus/minus.
Even more impressive is that 29.5 percent of Stone’s season (Senators and Golden Knights) was played with rookies Colin White and Brady Tkachuk. White finished the season a minus-24 and Tkachuk was minus-10.
Boosting his defensive stats, Stone was third on the team for shot blocks by a forward (53) behind Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Tierney. Each of whom played at least 20 more games than Stone. He also led the team in takeaways with 88. To put that number in perspective, the second-place player in takeaways was Tierney with 53.
Stone was a standout on a bad team for the majority of his season, and it even shows up in the advanced stats. The Winnipeg native finished his time with the Senators with a Corsi for percentage of 52.6 percent, again leading the team (amongst players who played more than 10 games).
Stone’s Immediate Impact on Golden Knights
Stone was traded from the Senators to a playoff team coming off of a Stanley Cup run the season before in the Golden Knights. The team was already good and already in a playoff spot, yet Stone managed to make the team as a whole better.
In Stone’s first month as a Golden Knight, the team went on a 10-1-1 streak with a goal differential of plus-23. He slid into their lineup well, giving them extra firepower, better depth and a forward with some of the best defensive instincts in the league.
Playing with a stronger lineup, Stone increased his Corsi for percentage to 56.6, the best of his career. He also collected another 18 blocks and 34 takeaways. His takeaways led the league from the trade deadline to the end of the regular season.
Stone’s Competition for the Selke
Stone is up against some tough competition for the Selke and the odds may not be in his favour. The Selke has been won by a centreman every season since left winger Jere Lehtinen won the award in 2002-03. This season, Stone is up against two centremen.
They might just one day name the Selke after Patrice Bergeron. He’s a four-time winner of the honour, tying Bob Gainey for the all-time lead. He’s also been a finalist every season for the past eight, so it’s safe to say he’s a strong contender.
With the Boston Bruins, Bergeron led the team at plus-23 and played the most shorthanded minutes per game among the forwards (1:42). He had the eighth-best faceoff percentage in the league (56.6) and capped it all off with 60 blocks (most on the team from a forward) and 42 takeaways (fifth on the team). All of this while setting a new career-high in points (79).
Bergeron also led the team in Corsi for with 57 percent (compared to players with 21-plus games), although the Bruins had the third-best goal differential and goals-against average in the league (plus-45 and 2.43 respectfully). So he was on a better team than Stone had for most of his season.
Just like Stone, Ryan O’Reilly is a first-time finalist for the Selke. It’s his first nomination despite being long-regarded as an elite two-way centreman. He led the league in faceoff wins (1,086) for the second season in a row. He also led St. Louis Blues forwards in time on ice (20:46 per game) and time on the penalty kill (1:59 per game).
O’Reilly also led the Blues in plus/minus with a plus-22 while leading the team in points and setting a new career-high with 77. He was fourth on the team for forwards in blocks (36) and had a team-leading 94 takeaways. The closest to him was Alex Pietrangelo with 55. He added a 53.6 Corsi for percentage, seventh overall on the team and second for forwards (20-plus games played.
Like Bergeron, though, O’Reilly had a good team around him. Sure, they were last in the league at the beginning of January, but then they contended for the division title by season’s end. The Blues finished 11th in goal differential (plus-24) and fifth in goals-against average (2.55).
Why Stone Will Win the Selke
Stone put together a solid defensive campaign for both of the teams he played for this season. But that’s really nothing new for the winger. Over the past five seasons, he has 503 takeaways in 361 games. That’s 1.19 takeaways per game. That leads the league by a landslide, with O’Reilly’s 362 in second-place.
In 2018-19, Stone is the most deserving to win the Selke for keeping his stats right up there with the best defensive players in the league despite playing on one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
|Player||Games Played||Points||Takeaways||Blocks||Corsi For %||Time on Ice|
What holds Stone back is the faceoff stats that Bergeron and O’Reilly have. But what he lacks in centreman statistics, his standout performance on a bad team should help make up for. On the Senators and the Golden Knights, his impact is unmistakable.
|Goal Differential per Game|
|Senators with Stone||-0.661|
|Senators without Stone||-0.950|
|Golden Knights with Stone||+0.064|
|Golden Knights without Stone||+0.789|
On a bad Senators team and a good Golden Knights team, Stone boosts the goal differential. Especially with a good team around him, that impact is huge.
After 16 years of centers winning the Selke Trophy, this is a year that a winger takes back the title. Stone deserves the honour as the NHL’s best defensive forward and his play this season has earned him that.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.