Former AHL All-Star Braden Holtby won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s outstanding goaltender, one of several American Hockey League alumni to be recognized at the National Hockey League’s annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
Holtby played 132 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears over four seasons before graduating to the Washington Capitals, where he equaled a single-season NHL record with 48 wins in 2015-16. Holtby backstopped the Capitals to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular-season club, finishing with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Holtby was an AHL All-Star in 2011 and was a member of Hershey’s Calder Cup championship team in 2010. He is the 12th AHL graduate in the last 14 years to win the Vezina Trophy.
Holtby also earned a selection as a First Team All-Star, joining fellow AHL grads Erik Karlsson of Ottawa and Jamie Benn of Dallas on the team. Second Team NHL All-Stars included Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, San Jose’s Brent Burns and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, all AHL alumni as well.
Washington’s Barry Trotz won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top head coach for 2015-16. Trotz, whose 658 career victories over 17 NHL seasons rank ninth on the all-time wins list, captured his first Adams Award 22 years after he won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s coach of the year, when he led the Portland Pirates to the 1994 Calder Cup championship.
The NHL All-Rookie Team included three AHL graduates as well, including two who began the 2015-16 season in the American Hockey League.
Shayne Gostisbehere recorded two goals and eight assists in 14 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms before going on to lead all NHL rookie defensemen in goals (17), assists (29), points (46), power-play goals (8), power-play points (22) and game-winning goals (5) while playing in 64 contests for the Philadelphia Flyers. He also scored four overtime goals, setting an NHL record for any rookie while matching a single-season record for any defenseman.
John Gibson, who was 7-4-1 in 13 appearances with the San Diego Gulls this season, went 21-13-4 with a 2.07 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and four shutouts in 40 appearances to help the Anaheim Ducks capture the William M. Jennings Trophy (sharing it with fellow AHL graduate Frederik Andersen). Gibson ranked second in the entire NHL in GAA, tied for eighth in shutouts and 12th in save percentage.
Colton Parayko was also named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after finishing last season with the Chicago Wolves, recording four goals and three assists in 17 games. Parayko ranked second among rookie defensemen in goals (9), assists (24) and points (33) while appearing in 79 games with St. Louis in 2015-16.
Nashville Predators captain and former Milwaukee Admirals defenseman Shea Weber was the recipient of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, which honors an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and dedication to community activities and charitable causes.
Calgary Flames defenseman and AHL grad Mark Giordano received the 2015-16 NHL Foundation Player Award, recognizing an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.
All told, more than 88 percent of all National Hockey League players in 2015-16 were graduates of the American Hockey League, including 377 players who skated in both leagues over the course of the season.