AHL grads honored at NHL Awards ceremony

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brent Burns won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the outstanding defenseman in the National Hockey League for 2016-17, one of several American Hockey League alumni honored at the NHL’s annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

Burns played 74 games with the AHL’s Houston Aeros during his first two professional seasons, totaling 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points. He has gone on to total 499 points in 879 NHL games with Minnesota and San Jose, and set Sharks franchise records for goals (29) and points (76) by a defenseman for the second consecutive season in 2016-17 en route to his first Norris Trophy.

Burns was also one of three AHL graduates named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team, joining Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson (Binghamton) and Boston left wing Brad Marchand (Providence).

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for the fourth time, tying the record held by Bob Gainey. An AHL All-Star in 2005 as a member of the Providence Bruins, Bergeron has played 899 games in the NHL with Boston.

John Tortorella, who coached the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup championship in 1996, won his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. Under Tortorella, the Columbus Blue Jackets set franchise records for wins (50) and points (108) in 2016-17, including a 16-game winning streak which was the second-longest in league history.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson received the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Anderson had a successful season for the Senators while also supporting his wife, Nicholle, in her fight against cancer. Anderson played parts of five seasons in the AHL with Norfolk and Rochester, making 146 appearances and earning a record of 73-58-11 with 12 shutouts.

Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals received the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender on the club that allowed the fewest goals during the regular season. An AHL All-Star and Calder Cup champion during his time with the Hershey Bears, Holtby and the Capitals led the NHL in goals against to claim his first Jennings Trophy.

Holtby was also voted a Second Team NHL All-Star, joining Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith (Norfolk) and Tampa Bay right wing Nikita Kucherov (Syracuse).

Three AHL alumni also made the 2016-17 NHL All-Rookie Team: New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, who was a standout AHL rookie for Hartford in 2015-16; Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who won a Calder Cup title with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016; and Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, who was voted both the AHL’s outstanding rookie and its outstanding goaltender with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2014-15.

At the 2017 NHL Humanitarian Awards on Tuesday, Columbus’s Nick Foligno, who skated in Binghamton during the 2007-08 season, won both the King Clancy Memorial Trophy as the player who exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. He also received the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

And New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, a former Bridgeport Sound Tiger, received the NHL Foundation Player Award given to a 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 2016-17 were graduates of the American Hockey League, including 353 players who skated in both leagues over the course of the season.