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Jiri Hudler named finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

Hudler, alongside Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk, is nominated as one of the best, most sportsmanlike players of the 2014-15 season.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Lady Byng isn't the most impressive award. It's no Hart, no Norris, no Calder. But it exemplifies the spirit of hockey, going to the most sportsmanlike high-level players in the NHL. Hockey fans like talking about class; that's the Lady Byng.

Jiri Hudler has been named one of the three finalists for the award, alongside the Los Angeles Kings' Anze Kopitar, and Detroit Red Wings' (and former teammate) Pavel Datsyuk.

Hudler was absolutely key for his team this season, and has been since he became a Calgary Flame. He initially joined the team at a tumultuous time, just before the rebuild began. He was around for the selling off of franchise players, and quickly saw his role turn from supporting cast to supporter, particularly when he offered to house Sean Monahan in his rookie season.

This year, that's extended, as Hudler has spent most of this time with rookie Johnny Gaudreau. He's mentored him, and helped form one of the most formidable lines in the NHL alongside the two youngsters under his care.

Hudler led the Flames in scoring, with 31 goals and 76 points over 78 games. He set career highs in both categories, averaging 18:01 of ice time along the way. The NHL's eighth highest scorer only took 14 penalty minutes along the way.

Here's how he compares with the other finalists:

Player Goals Assists Points PIM Average TOI
Jiri Hudler 31 45 76 14 18:01
Anze Kopitar 16 48 64 10 19:23
Pavel Datsyuk 26 39 65 8 19:03

Of the three, Hudler played the least on average, and took the most penalties. He still didn't take many, though, and blew both Kopitar and Datsyuk out of the water (although Datsyuk does suffer the handicap of having played fewer games; 63 to Kopitar's 79 and Hudler's 78). And playing at a high level is important to the trophy, too.

So does he have a shot? Absolutely. He received some Lady Byng votes back in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, but nothing even close to being named a finalist. Which makes sense; this is, after all, the absolute best season of Hudler's career, and he's earned his spot atop the list.

Ryan O'Reilly won the award last season, when he scored 64 points while taking all of two penalty minutes. The all-European finalists will disrupt the five-year streak of a Canadian player winning. Before then, Datsyuk had won the award from 2005-09.