AHL alumni target NHL awards this week

nhl-awards09_200.jpgSeveral American Hockey League graduates will be up for major honors when the National Hockey League holds its annual awards ceremony on Thursday night in Las Vegas. Among them are Columbus’ Steve Mason, Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan, and Chicago’s Kris Versteeg, all bidding for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s outstanding rookie.

A 2008 AHL All-Star, Ryan is aiming to capture the NHL’s top rookie award one year after being named to the AHL’s All-Rookie squad.

Mason is also nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, as is Boston’s Tim Thomas, a 20-game winner with Providence in 2003-04.

1998 AHL All-Star Zdeno Chara (Boston) and 2006 Calder Cup champion Mike Green (Washington) are both finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s best defenseman, while 2005 AHL All-Star Ryan Kesler (Vancouver) and 2005 Calder Cup champ Mike Richards (Philadelphia) bid for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward.

Two other former AHL All-Stars – New Jersey’s Zach Parise (2005) and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (1999) – are candidates for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to NHL’s most gentlemanly player.

1995 Calder Cup champion Steve Sullivan (Nashville) and 1996 Calder Cup finalist Richard Zednik (Florida) join Chris Chelios (Detroit) as finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which goes to the player who most displays perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

Boston’s Claude Julien and San Jose’s Todd McLellan are both nominees for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s outstanding coach. McLellan won the Calder Cup as bench boss of Houston in 2003, defeating in the Finals a Hamilton squad which was guided by that year’s co-AHL coach of the year Julien before he was promoted to the NHL midway through the season.

All voting is conducted at the conclusion of the regular season. Three other awards, the Hart Trophy (most valuable player), the King Clancy Trophy (leadership and humanitarian contribution to his community), and the Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player), will also be presented at the awards ceremony, to be held at the Palms Hotel.