NEW YORK — Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon and St. Louis Blues centre Ryan O’Reilly are the three finalists for the 2019-20 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
The award is presented annually to the player best combining sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability.
Matthews finished third in the NHL with a career-high 47 goals, one behind Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy co-winners Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak, while also topping the Maple Leafs with a career-best 80 points in 70 games.
The 22-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native also established a career-low with eight penalty minutes, tied for the fewest among the NHL’s top 100 scorers. He did so while sharing second place in the League in takeaways (78) and ranking eighth among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,467 minutes 52 seconds).
"It’s not a fun place to watch the game, from in the penalty box," Matthews said. "I prefer to spend my time not there. I’m not overly physical or an in-your-face kind of player. I try to use my body position and try to use my stick and little skills to win puck battles, win the puck back, and play my game.
"There’s lots of ups and downs … try not to get too emotional."
Matthews’ exemplary on-ice conduct, however, came after an adverse start to the season when news broke in September that he was facing a charge of disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour stemming from an alleged May incident outside his condominium Scottsdale, Ariz.
Matthews issued an apology in November after the charge was dismissed following a settlement between the parties.
MacKinnon ranked fifth in the NHL with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games to lead the Avalanche into the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The 24-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., registered a career-low 12 penalty minutes, the second-fewest among the league’s top 25 scorers. No other NHL forward averaged more time on ice (21:13) in 2019-20 while taking fewer penalties.
O’Reilly led the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues with 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) in 71 games to power the team to the highest points percentage in the Western Conference. The 29-year-old from Clinton, Ont., topped the NHL in both face-off wins (880) and face-offs taken (1,556), ranking 10th among qualifying players with a 56.6 face-off winning percentage.
O’Reilly received five minor penalties, the sixth time in his 11 NHL seasons he has totalled 10 or fewer penalty minutes, while ranking seventh in the League in takeaways (69) and 10th among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,460:45).
"It’s amazing to be nominated," O’Reilly said. "It’s an honour and I look forward to finding who’s the winner."