SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that left wing Cory Conacher of the Norfolk Admirals has been named the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player for the 2011-12 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the league’s 30 member cities.
Conacher becomes the fourth rookie to win the award since it was first presented in 1947-48, joining Bill Hicke (1958-59), Pelle Lindbergh (1980-81) and Stephan Lebeau (1988-89).
Conacher ranks second in the entire AHL with 35 goals and 75 points, tied for second with 14 power-play goals and tied for third with seven game-winning tallies for league-leading Norfolk heading into the final weekend of the regular season. He has recorded a point in 51 of his 72 games played, with the Admirals showing a 40-11-0-0 record in those contests, and has a plus/minus rating of plus-13 along with 110 penalty minutes for the year. The 22-year-old native of Burlington, Ont., represented Norfolk at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic (where he tallied 2-1-3 in the All-Star Game) and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team and AHL Second All-Star Team for 2011-12.
Undrafted out of Canisius College, Conacher signed an AHL contract with Norfolk following training camp and inked a two-year NHL deal with Tampa Bay on Mar. 1.
The AHL’s most valuable player award honors the late Les Cunningham, a 2009 AHL Hall of Fame inductee who was a five-time league All-Star and three-time Calder Cup champion with the Cleveland Barons. Previous winners include Carl Liscombe (1948, ’49), Johnny Bower (1956, ’57, ’58), Fred Glover (1960, ’62, ’64), Mike Nykoluk (1967), Gilles Villemure (1969, ’70), Doug Gibson (1975, ’77), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Ross Yates (1983), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Tim Tookey (1987), Jody Gage (1988), John Anderson (1992), Don Biggs (1993), Derek Armstrong (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004), Jason Spezza (2005), Darren Haydar (2007), Alexandre Giroux (2009), Keith Aucoin (2010) and Corey Locke (2011).
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 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. The 2011-12 regular season ends on Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs get under way next week.