NHL Awards 2019: Nikita Kucherov wins big as MVP, Mark Giordano secures first Norris, Andrei Vasilevskiy earns Vezina
A recap of the NHL's 2019 award-winners
Only one team gets to take home the Stanley Cup at the end of each season, but a number of the NHL's top players took home some additional hardware Wednesday night at the 2019 NHL Awards.
The award show was held in Las Vegas with a large collection of the game's top players past and present on hand for the festivities. The event rewards some of the top individual efforts put forth across the league over the past year.
The big winner at this year's event was Nikita Kucherov, who took home three awards (the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award and the Art Ross Trophy) after a spectacular season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Saturday Night Live" star Kenan Thompson, who played Russ Tyler in the "Mighty Ducks" movie franchise, hosted the event. Though there was a surprise Goodburger reunion during the show, the true highlight came when Thompson delivered a terrific (and factually accurate) burn of the Lightning -- one which their players didn't seem to enjoy.
But the show also brought some touching moments, including star Canadiens goaltender Carey Price surprising Anderson Whitehead -- a young fan who lost his mother to cancer.
Let's get to a recap of the awards handed during the show.
Calder Memorial Trophy: Elias Pettersson
No surprise here. Elias Pettersson took home the Calder as the league's best rookie. The Vancouver Canucks winger was nearly a slam dunk to take home the award, leading all rookies with 28 goals and 66 points despite playing in 71 games. He only scored two goals in the final two months of the season but he was electric enough in the first half to essentially lock up the honor before the All-Star break.
During his speech, Pettersson gave a shoutout to Jason Botchford, the beloved Vancouver sportswriter who died suddenly earlier this year.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Aleksander Barkov
Barkov took home the Lady Byng, which is awarded to "the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." The Panthers captain led the club with a franchise-record 96 points (35-61-96) while only picking up eight penalty minutes over 82 games.
There's some irony that Barkov started off his speech by burning his own team's fans.
More like Lady Zing.
GM of the Year: Don Sweeney
Boston Bruins boss Don Sweeney took home the award for General Manager of the Year. His team surprised many by finishing with 107 points in the standings -- tying them for second-most in the NHL this season. Sweeney's acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline helped bolster the Bruins' depth and power them to a strong second-half finish.
Carolina's Don Waddell received the most first-place votes for the award but fell short.
Of course, the voting happens at the conclusion of the regular season but Boston's run to the Stanley Cup Final helps Sweeney's case as a deserving winner here.
King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker took home the King Clancy Trophy, which is awarded to "the player or players who best exemplify leadership qualities on and off the ice and have made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in their community."
Zucker, along with his wife, has been an active philanthropic member of the Minnesota community, especially when it comes to the local children's hospital. Zucker's family opened a suite in the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital this year that allows young patients and their families the opportunity to watch Wild games "in a setting that simulates the experience of being at the game itself."
Zucker is also the Wild's Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador and pledged $1,600 (symbolic of his No. 16) for each of the 21 goals he scored this season.
Ted Lindsay Award: Nikita Kucherov
Kucherov won the Ted Lindsay Award as the league's most outstanding player as voted by his peers. That's not entirely surprising considering the season Kucherov had in Tampa. The Russian winger won the Art Ross Trophy with a league-leading 128 points, finishing the year with a career-best 41 goals and 87 assists.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Mark Giordano
Giordano posted a career-best 74 points, second most among defensemen this season. The Flames defenseman logged over 24 minutes a night and had a 57 percent attempt share at even strength. He also had a 61 percent goal share at even strength while going up against top competition. His +39 rating was tops among all players in the league.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Robin Lehner
The New York Islanders goalie took home the Masterton Trophy as the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey." It was almost a no-brainer.
After signing a one-year deal with the New York Islanders last offseason, Lehner revealed an intense battle with substance abuse and bipolar disorder that almost derailed his life and career. He got help, opened up about his fight, and then all he did was submit the best season of his career, winning 25 games with a .930 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average. It was enough to earn him a Vezina nomination as well.
Before Wednesday's event, Lehner said winning the Masterton would be more meaningful to him than winning the Vezina.
"Both are fun, but the Masterton means a lot more to me and my wife and my kids," Lehner said, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli. "Just being nominated for that award is huge for me and my family. I think it's huge for everyone that's been supporting me, too."
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Ryan O'Reilly
In his first nomination, O'Reilly secures his first Selke as the league's best defensive forward. He led all Blues forwards in goal share (59 percent), plus-minus (+22) and average ice time per game (20:46). He also led the NHL in faceoff wins (1,086) for the second straight season, joining Boston's Patrice Bergeron as the only player to win more than 1,000 faceoffs in four straight seasons since the stat was introduced in 1997.
Mark Stone finished as Selke runner-up while Bergeron finished third.
Jack Adams Award: Barry Trotz
Trotz earns the Jack Adams as the league's top coach in his first season with the Islanders. Trotz led a stunning turnaround on Long Island that saw the Islanders make a 23-point improvement from last season, going from the league's worst defensive team to the best in terms of goals allowed.
The award also comes a year after Trotz led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. So, yeah, it has been a couple good years for that guy.
Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Vasilevskiy secures his first Vezina as the league's top goaltender following the best season of his three-year run as starter in Tampa. The 24-year-old Russian netminder won 39 games with the Bolts, posting a save percentage of .925 with a goals-against average of 2.40. The win comes after Vasilevskiy finished third in Vezina voting last season.
Ben Bishop finished second in voting while Lehner finished third.
Mark Messier Leadership Award: Wayne Simmonds
Nashville Predators forward Wayne Simmonds received the Messier Award, which is presented "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey."
Simmonds has been a well-respected member of the hockey community for years, both on and off the ice. The veteran winger was very active in helping to grow the game and give back during his time in Philadelphia and continued those efforts even after being traded to Nashville this season.
Hart Memorial Trophy: Nikita Kucherov
Again, Kucherov had 128 points (41 goals and 87 assists) this season. It appears the voters weren't about to overthink things: Kucherov received 164 first-place votes among the 171 ballots cast, powering him to a landslide win over Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. He is your NHL MVP this season.
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