AHL alumni capture 2019-20 NHL Awards

Photo: Jonathan Kozub

Connor Hellebuyck and Roman Josi were among several American Hockey League alumni who captured NHL awards as they were announced Monday night.

Hellebuyck is the 2019-20 recipient of the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the outstanding goaltender in the NHL. Hellebuyck (31-21-5, 2.57, .922) led the league in shots faced, saves and shutouts (six) while helping the Winnipeg Jets reach the postseason.

Hellebuyck spent his first two pro seasons in the AHL, playing for the St. John’s IceCaps (2014-15) and Manitoba Moose (2015-16). He went 41-37-6 with a 2.55 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 88 AHL appearances, and was an AHL All-Star as a rookie in 2015.

Josi claimed the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman. Josi, who led the Nashville Predators in scoring with 65 points in 69 games in 2019-20, spent his entire rookie season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in 2010-11 and totaled 44 points in 74 career outings with the Predators’ affiliate.

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, who began his first full pro season in 2015-16 with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the “player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team” as well as the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s “most outstanding player as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.”

The 24-year-old Draisaitl tallied 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points in 71 games for Edmonton in 2019-20, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

Hellebuyck, Josi and Draisaitl also earned spots on the First All-Star Team, along with AHL alumni David Pastrnak and two-time Calder Cup champion John Carlson. AHL graduates named to the Second All-Star Team included Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Pietrangelo.

The NHL All-Rookie Team featured Buffalo’s Victor Olofsson, who was a 30-goal scorer with the Rochester Americans in 2018-19; Elvis Merzlikins, who also saw action this season with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters; and Nick Suzuki, who made his pro debut with the Chicago Wolves during the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Other individual award winners announced earlier this month included Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier as the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. Couturier spent part of the 2012-13 season skating for the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms (10-18-28 in 31 games).

Matt Dumba, an AHL All-Star during his rookie season with the Iowa Wild in 2014-15, earned the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for contribution to his community, and Bobby Ryan, also a former AHL All-Star when he played for the Portland Pirates, was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s outstanding coach. A former head coach with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and Providence Bruins, became the seventh person ever to win both the Jack Adams Award and the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award, which is presented to the AHL’s outstanding coach.

All told, more than 88 percent of all National Hockey League players in 2019-20 were graduates of the American Hockey League, including 353 players who skated in both leagues over the course of the season.