Wednesday, June 19, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Mark Stone wasn’t in Las Vegas in 2017-18 when the Golden Knights made history and broke all sorts of records in their inaugural season. But he has a chance to make a name for himself today.
Stone is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, handed out to the best defensive forward, at the NHL Awards at 5 p.m. at Mandalay Bay Events Center. The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has not gone to a winger since 2003.
Stone knows it’s typically a center’s award — a notion he disputes.
“Everybody kind of says centers have bigger impacts on the game, but now it’s more of a five-man unit in the game,” Stone said. “You have to be able to play center and wing a little bit to have success. It’s cool, but it doesn’t really change anything for me.”
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and St. Louis’s Ryan O’Reilly, both centers, are the other finalists. Bergeron has won four times, while O’Reilly’s best finish was sixth in 2014. Stone, who has never been a finalist, finished sixth in 2017.
Stone, who came to the Golden Knights at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators, led the NHL in takeaways with 122, which was 22 more than the second-place finisher. He also drove possession as well as anyone in the league, particularly when he was with Ottawa. As a Senator, Stone posted a relative Corsi of 11.3, meaning Ottawa generated about 11 more shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 when Stone was on the ice as opposed to when he wasn’t.
Stone had a 56.6 percent Corsi as a Golden Knight, showing his numbers weren’t just an indictment of his Ottawa teammates. He was superb in the playoffs, posting a team-best six goals and 12 assists in seven games, including the first hat trick of his career in Game 3 of the first round against the San Jose Sharks.
Stone is the lone Golden Knight up for an award on Wednesday, a drop-off from last year when William Karlsson won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Deryk Engelland won the Mark Messier Leadership Award, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award and George McPhee won the NHL General Manager of the Year Award.
“If I don’t win, I’ll be the first loser,” he joked.
But even with only one local player up for consideration, residents can still enjoy the show. Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer, said the enthusiasm of Golden Knights fans encouraged the league to look for a larger venue for the show. It had been at Hard Rock Hotel in 2016 and 2018.
“You’ve got a hockey-savvy audience and it is different now,” Mayer said. “Hockey fans from all over the country flock to Vegas for your games. So how do we take advantage of that? So, we looked for a bigger venue.”
Fans who attended last year’s show will experience a different vibe from last year’s offering. The hockey world was struck with tragedy during the 2017-18 season with shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Fla., as well as a bus crash carrying the Humboldt junior hockey team in Canada.
“We showed how hockey triumphantly brought these communities back to life and how hockey was a central part of the recovery,” Mayer said. “I think the tone last year was serious and it was emotional. This year, we’re going comedy. We’re going to have fun.”
And sure enough, even the presenters carry with them a different tone. Kenan Thompson of "Saturday Night Live" fame will host the show, and actor Jon Hamm and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will each have starring roles.
Tickets are still available for the show, starting at $25.