Detroit — “Many young players enter the NHL and think only about scoring goals. They feel that’s the way to get noticed.

Livonia native Ryan Kesler, of the Vancouver Canucks, has been a little different.

Maybe it’s because he’s the son of a coach — Mike Kesler is a longtime successful junior coach in Metro Detroit — but Ryan has always taken his defensive duties seriously.

Which could be a reason Kesler is a finalist tonight for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.

“It’s exciting,” said Kesler, who graduated from Livonia Churchill. “It’s an individual award that you win because you are a defensive player and I always pride myself on that. It’s definitely something to be proud of.”

Pavel Datsyuk — who won the Selke last year — and Mike Richards of the Flyers are the other finalists.

Few people around the league are surprised the gritty Kesler, 24, is already a finalist for the award.

“He (Kesler) is a good, tough player,” Datsyuk said earlier this season. “Good skater, strong, a good young player.”

Kesler, a 2003 first-round draft choice from Ohio State, has been an impressive part of Vancouver’s lineup from the time he entered the league. This past season Kesler’s stature around the league grew a bit more as he also produced career-high offensive numbers.

Kelser had 26 goals and 33 assists for 61 points, and skated on a line with center Mats Sundin toward the end of the regular season and playoffs.

Of Kesler’s nomination for the Selke, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said: “The honor is well deserved. He works hard and competed hard at both ends of rink.”

Kesler led the Canucks with 74 takeaways, scored two short-handed goals, and won a team-best 54 percent of his faceoffs (527-of-976). He also was on the ice for 3 minutes and 19 seconds of short-handed ice time per game.”


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