Kesler hopes Vegas fun includes Selke Trophy

Like most of us, Ryan Kesler is not adverse to having a little fun in Las Vegas, one of North America's top destinations for parties, nightlife and just about anything else you can think of. He's hoping his next visit to Sin City is memorable for making a new friend -- the Selke Trophy.

Kesler is one of three finalists for the honor given to the NHL's outstanding defensive forward, an honor he was up for last year but didn't win. Kesler will be back in Vegas again on June 23, when the League's biggest and brightest stars mingle with entertainment and music celebrities as the red carpet is rolled out for the end-of-the-season NHL Awards Ceremony.

Kesler was in Vegas on Thursday, days before the start of the Stanley Cup Final, on a media tour to heighten the anticipation of the black-tie event. He taped several television segments, visited the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, was a call-in guest on the NHL Live! radio show, signed autographs at the Pearl Theater in the Palms Hotel and attended a hockey clinic for kids at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

"I enjoy the normal Vegas stuff, a little gambling. I enjoy the nightlife, going to shows. That's what Vegas is all about," Kesler told NHL.com. "Every time I come here I have a great time."

Kesler is up against Jordan Staal of Pittsburgh and two-time defending Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit for this year's honor. Last year he placed third behind Datsyuk and Mike Richards of Philadelphia.

He's hopeful this year's result will be better.

"I like my chances better this year than last year, and hopefully I win it," Kesler said. "Last year being here was a great experience and this year hopefully I can win it and have a good time."

Kesler isn't the only Canuck hoping to leave Vegas with some hardware. Teammate Henrik Sedin is up for the Hart Trophy as MVP, though he has stiff competition in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

"He took his game to the next level, and he's definitely in good company," Kesler said of the NHL scoring leader, who's assured of going home with the Art Ross Trophy. "Hopefully he can win it."

Kesler, who appeared in all of Vancouver's 82 regular-season games and another 12 in the playoffs, also represented the U.S. for six games at the Winter Olympics. He said he hasn't done much since hanging up his skates after the Canucks' second-round loss to Chicago -- something that's understandable after appearing in 100 total contests. Kesler recently moved back to his home state of Michigan for the summer.

"I needed time to recover, get that playoff loss out of my head," Kesler said, referring to Vancouver's physical six-game series loss to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

"We beat ourselves, that's the biggest thing," he added. "As a team we fell into the trap. Give (Chicago) credit; they had a good game plan and they're a good hockey team, but we beat ourselves. I probably could have played better, everybody in our room could have played better, and it is what it is. We all think we could play better. Nobody in the room doesn't think he could have done more, but you can't dwell on it too long."

The 2010 NHL Awards will take place at the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas on June 23 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. It will be broadcast by Versus in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.

Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg, a Boston-native and longtime hockey fan, will be in attendance as a special guest. The Oscar-nominated actor will appear on stage to help the League honor its Award nominees. George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC’s The Hour, will join Wahlberg as special guest.

Florida-based rockers Shinedown, Grammy Award-nominated rapper Snoop Dogg and the Las Vegas cast of the smash hit Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys will be on hand for special live performances.

The world famous Cirque du Soleil brand will bring its artistry to the 2010 NHL Awards with a special performance from one of their seven Las Vegas productions, on stage at the Pearl Theater.

Contact Rocky Bonanno at rbonanno@nhl.com