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April 22, 2004 - Draper chosen as finalist for Selke Trophy
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Draper chosen as finalist for Selke Trophy

Forward earns first nomination

April 22, 2004

BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Kris Draper was in the back of the Red Wings locker room Wednesday playing soccer when he was tapped on the shoulder and told to go to the coaches' office.

NHL NOMINEES
Finalists for the NHL awards (winners announced June 10):

Hart Trophy (MVP): Martin Brodeur, New Jersey; Jarome Iginla, Calgary; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay.

Vezina Trophy (goalie): Martin Brodeur, New Jersey; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary; Robert Luongo, Florida.

Calder Trophy (rookie): Trent Hunter, N.Y. Islanders; Andrew Raycroft, Boston; Michael Ryder, Montreal.

Norris Trophy (defenseman): Zdeno Chara, Ottawa; Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey; Chris Pronger, St. Louis.

Selke Trophy (defensive forward): Kris Draper, Detroit; John Madden, New Jersey; Alyn McCauley, San Jose.

Adams Award (coach): Darryl Sutter, Calgary; John Tortorella, Tampa Bay; Ron Wilson, San Jose.

Lady Byng (sportsmanship): Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa; Brad Richards, Tampa Bay; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay.

Draper sprinted through the stall area, down two corridors and disappeared. When he returned a minute later, his smile was on full wattage.

"I haven't been sent to an office in a while," Draper said. "The guys gave me a red card, and I went in and found out about the Selke nomination."

Draper is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which goes to the NHL's outstanding defensive forward. He finished the regular season with a plus-22 rating, ranked eighth in the league with a 56.9 face-off winning percentage, and was a huge reason the Wings finished with the best penalty-killing percentage at .867.

"I'm very honored, probably even a little humbled to be put in a category like that," Draper said. "Individual trophies are something that I haven't given a lot of thought to for a long time; my goal here with this team is just help to win Stanley Cups."

That goal begins again tonight when the Wings play host to the Calgary Flames for Game 1 of their second-round series. In all likelihood, Draper, with Grind Line mates Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty, will be used heavily against Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy. Draper and Maltby have played together since the middle '90s, developing into one of the premier defensive tandems in the league.

It is the first time Draper has been a finalist for an NHL award. He is competing against New Jersey's John Madden, a former Wolverine who won the award in 2001, and San Jose's Alyn McCauley. Former Wings winners were Steve Yzerman, in 2000, and Sergei Fedorov, in 1994 and 1996.

"To get singled out by the league is something that's pretty special," Draper said. "But for me, this thing wouldn't be possible without playing with Malts. I give him a lot of credit for the situation I'm in right now.

"This trophy is pretty special. I mean, that's what I do. I consider myself a defensive forward. To all of a sudden get some recognition is overwhelming."

Voting is conducted at the end of the regular season by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Nominations are often the culmination of garnering attention over several years. Draper's coming off another outstanding year defensively, but he's also coming off a career year offensively, with 24 goals and 40 points in 67 games.

"This just tips off a great regular season for him," Maltby said. "I think it's awesome. He worked hard and . . ." Maltby stopped for a second when Draper walked past him, reaching over to offer his congratulations and a handshake.

"You're not going to meet a guy that works much harder off the ice and carries it over onto the ice," Maltby continued. "Hopefully the next step is actually winning it. We're all pulling for him."

Part of the reason behind Draper's success may stem, ironically, from last spring's four-game sweep by Anaheim. That freed up Draper, and Maltby, to play for Canada in the world championships, where they led the team to gold.

"I thought maybe the world championships last year helped him confidence-wise," associate coach Barry Smith said. "He and Maltby were the go-to guys for that team, which shows an awful lot of leadership and how hard they play."

Draper, 32, played so well all season that it was considered something of a snub when he was left out of the All-Star Game. The Selke, though, would help make up for that.

The results will be announced at the NHL's awards show in Toronto on June 10. Should Draper win, TV cameramen might need to pull out wide-angle lenses.

"I think the biggest thing that has to be considered," Maltby said, "is just getting that smile on TV."

Contact HELENE ST. JAMES at 313-222-2295 or stjames@freepress.com.