Centerman Ryan O’Reilly has been a member of the St. Louis Blues for two seasons now, and he has already proved to be worth his weight in gold for the Blues in just two years with the club. Since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, 2018, O’Reilly has accumulated quite the amount of accolades while wearing the Note: Stanley Cup Champion, Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, two-time All-Star, two-time Selke Trophy finalist (winning it in 2019), and two-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy Finalist. Just as he was in 2019, Ryan O’Reilly was recently named a finalist for the Selke and Lady Byng Trophy’s for his performance throughout the 2019-20 NHL season. During the 2019 NHL Awards, O’Reilly beat out Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Mark Stone (VGK) for the Selke but finished second in voting behind Aleksander Barkov (FLA) for the Lady Byng. Once again here in 2020, O’Reilly is nominated for both and we are going to look at his chances of landing either one or both distinguished awards.
The three finalists for the Selke Trophy in the 2019-20 NHL season are Ryan O’Reilly, Patrice Bergeron, and Sean Couturier (PHI). The Selke is of course awarded to the best defensive forward in the league during said season, but voters in the past have shown an inclination to have at least some small significant value for offensive stats. O’Reilly had the most points of the three finalists with 61 points (12 G, 49 A, 0.86 PPG) but also had the most games played of the three. Bergeron had 56 points (31 G, 25 A, 0.92 PPG) in 56 games played while Couturier recorded 59 points (22 G, 37 A, 0.86 PPG) in 69 games. From a points per game perspective, Bergeron has the slight edge but not by much.
Regarding defensive statistics, O’Reilly has several areas that favor him. O’Reilly led the group in defensive takeaways with 69 while Bergeron and Couturier had 44 and 40, respectively. ROR led the group in total faceoff wins with 880 which marks the third consecutive season that O’Reilly has led the NHL in faceoffs won. O’Reilly also had the least amount of penalty minutes of the three with 10 while Couturier had the most of the group with 30 with Bergeron close behind at 28. O’Reilly also had 42 blocked shots during the season, which was second best in the group behind Bergeron who had four more than ROR but finished above Couturier who had 26.
It looks like once again that the Selke Trophy is going to come down to either Ryan O’Reilly or Patrice Bergeron. This is not a diss toward Sean Couturier, but he only has two stats that make his case for Selke: one is that he is tied for second in the group with Ryan O’Reilly in defensive points shares at 2.1 and that his faceoff win percentage is the highest of all finalists at 59.7%. But along with that faceoff stat, Couturier also took far less draws than O’Reilly or Bergeron. The Selke could potentially come down to how heavily the voter’s value offensive production. Patrice Bergeron, as always, has a solid case as he led the group in points per game, blocked shots, and defensive point shares with 2.3. But O’Reilly is close behind in defensive point shares at 2.1 and with all the statistics in his favor mentioned in the previous paragraph, it would be no surprise should O’Reilly be awarded his second consecutive Selke Trophy either. I would anticipate the voting being close and truly believe the winner will be decided by how much emphasis the voter’s put on offensive stats. If they value offense more, the Selke Trophy will likely go to Bergeron but if more emphasis is put more on defensive stats, the odds would be in better favor for O’Reilly.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
The three finalists for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the 2019-20 NHL season are Ryan O’Reilly, Auston Matthews (TOR), and Nathan MacKinnon (COL). O’Reilly won the Lady Byng during the 2013-14 NHL season and was a finalist last season before being beat out by Aleksander Barkov while Matthews and MacKinnon are first time finalists. The Lady Byng is given to the player “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” There are not many stats out there that dictate sportsmanship or gentlemanly conduct, but penalty minutes is a stat often associated with the finalists for the Lady Byng. This is because the less penalty minutes a player has, the more his discipline and non-disruptive tendencies are shown.
All three of these players were incredibly low in penalty minutes during the 2019-20 season, with Matthews having the least of the group with eight, O’Reilly with 10, and MacKinnon with 12. This award basically comes down to reputation as the writers who vote on these awards are the ones who interact and watch these guys on a nightly basis and are often told or see firsthand the kind of sportsman’s that they are. However, there is one thing that could potentially sway the voters away from one of the finalists. Back in September 2019 just before the start of the season, Auston Matthews was charged with disorderly conduct after he mooned a female security guard before the charges were eventually dropped after a settlement between the two parties was reached.
After Matthews was announced as a finalist a few days ago, there was somewhat of an outrage on social media that he was named a finalist after the incident he partook in just before the season. Despite the incident not having anything to do with his on-ice conduct, voters may lean away from voting for Matthews since the incident did occur just before the 2019-20 season and could potentially cause some backlash for the NHL. But outside of that incident, each of the three Lady Byng finalists are essentially on an equal playing field, it will just come down to how well each writer knows the players and their reputation within the league.
Ryan O’Reilly has about as good if not a better chance than his fellow finalists for both the Selke Trophy and Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in terms of bringing home the hardware. There is a strong argument for Ryan O’Reilly for both awards and he could very well be bringing them back to St. Louis after the 2020 NHL Awards. However before we find out if he will win either award, O’Reilly and the Blues will be resuming their Stanley Cup defense in just a couple weeks as the playoffs are finally beginning as the Blues are traveling to their hub in Edmonton to try and win back to back Stanley Cup’s. The Blues square off in an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks on July 29th and start their defense on August 2nd as they take on the Colorado Avalanche in their first round robin game.