American Hockey League

AHL alumni take home NHL Awards

Syracuse Crunch alumni Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning were landslide winners at the annual NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

Kucherov, who began his professional career with Syracuse by notching 24 points in 17 games in 2013-14, captured the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League’s most valuable player, receiving 164 of 171 first-place votes. Kucherov also claimed the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player as selected by the NHLPA.

Kucherov led the NHL with 87 assists and 128 points, the most by any player since 1995-96, to capture his first career Art Ross Trophy as well.

Vasilevskiy earned 28 of 31 first-place votes to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. Vasilevskiy, who played 37 games with Syracuse over his first two pro seasons (2014-16), posted a league-leading 39 victories for Tampa Bay in 2018-19.

Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames won his first James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Giordano, who was a standout pro rookie with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in 2005-06, enjoyed his most prolific NHL campaign at age 35, posting career highs of 57 assists and 74 points in 78 games to rank second among league defensemen in scoring.

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy and Giordano were also three of four AHL graduates named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team, joining San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. The Second All-Star Team includes AHL alumni John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars.

Barry Trotz, a Calder Cup champion with the Portland Pirates and the AHL’s outstanding coach in 1993-94, won his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach after guiding the New York Islanders to a 23-point improvement over their previous season and a trip to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Minnesota Wild forward and former AHL All-Star Jason Zucker accepted the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarianism, and 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Members of the NHL All-Rookie Team include former AHL All-Star Jordan Binnington of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, and Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli, a Calder Cup finalist with Syracuse in 2017.

All told, more than 87 percent of all National Hockey League players in 2018-19 were graduates of the American Hockey League, including 357 players who skated in both leagues over the course of the season.

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