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Bourque, Vatrano win AHL scoring races

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears has won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the leading scorer in the American Hockey League, while Frank Vatrano of the Providence Bruins has won the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL’s leading goal scorer for the 2015-16 campaign. 

This is the second AHL scoring title in five years for Chris Bourque, who was previously voted the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player and a First Team AHL All-Star this season. Bourque led the league in scoring with 80 points (30 goals, 50 assists) in 72 games, helping Hershey to an Atlantic Division title. The four-time AHL All-Star and three-time Calder Cup winner has totaled 201 goals and 378 assists for 579 points in 582 career AHL games, and is just the eighth player in the AHL’s 80-year history to lead the league in scoring more than once. 

The AHL’s leading-scorer trophy was originally named after Wally Kilrea, who held the AHL’s single-season scoring record when the award was instituted in 1947-48. That year, Carl Liscombe broke Kilrea’s record, and the award was renamed in his honor. In 1955, the AHL Board of Governors voted to name the trophy after John B. Sollenberger, a long-time contributor to the league as manager and president of the Hershey Bears and former Chairman of the AHL Board of Governors. Previous winners of the John B. Sollenberger Trophy include Fred Glover (1957, ’60), Willie Marshall (1958), Bill Sweeney (1961, ’62, ’63), Don Blackburn (1972), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Peter White (1995, ’97, ’98), Derek Armstrong (2001), Jason Spezza (2005), Alexandre Giroux (2009), Keith Aucoin (2010), Corey Locke (2011), Brandon Pirri (2013), Travis Morin (2014) and Brian O’Neill (2015). 

Co-winner of the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie this season, Frank Vatrano scored 36 goals in 36 games for Providence, becoming just the fourth AHL player ever to average a goal a game in a 30-goal season. Vatrano, who was also named a First Team AHL All-Star for 2015-16, added 19 assists for 55 points with the P-Bruins while also tallying eight goals and three assists for 11 points in 39 National Hockey League games with Boston. The 22-year-old Vatrano is the seventh player in AHL history to lead the entire league in goals as a rookie. 

The AHL’s goal-scoring award was established in 2004 to honor Willie Marshall, the AHL’s all-time leader in goals, assists, points and games played; winners include Mike Cammalleri (2005), Alexandre Giroux (2009, ’10), Colin McDonald (2011), Cory Conacher (2012), Tyler Johnson (2013), Zach Boychuk (2014) and Teemu Pulkkinen (2015). Other previous yearly goal-scoring leaders include Bryan Hextall (1937), Lou Trudel (1942, ’45), Fred Glover (1951), Dunc Fisher (1958), Jimmy Anderson (1961, ’64), Yvon Lambert (1973), Gordie Clark (1980), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Jody Gage (1988) and Brad Smyth (1996, 2001). 

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Sixteen clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway Wednesday.