Crunch’s Johnson named AHL MVP

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch has been named the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player for the 2012-13 season, as voted by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 member cities.

Johnson, 22, is tied for the league lead with 33 goals and has totaled 60 points in 60 games for the Crunch heading into the final weekend of the regular season, one of two skaters among the league’s top 10 scorers averaging a point per game. Johnson is tied for the league lead among forwards with a plus-24 rating and is also tied for fifth in power-play goals, scoring 12 times with the man advantage. He took part in the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic, and was named a 2012-13 First Team AHL All-Star last week. Syracuse, which has clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs and is bidding for the East Division title, is 37-17-2-4 with Johnson in the lineup this season, but has won just four of 13 games (4-4-4-1) without him.

A Calder Cup champion with Norfolk last year, Johnson has put up 64 goals and 64 assists for 128 points in 135 AHL games over his two professional seasons, including 100 points (49-51) and a plus-50 rating in his last 87 regular-season games. Johnson signed with Tampa Bay on Mar. 7, 2011, and made his NHL debut this season, notching three goals and three assists in 14 games with the Lightning.

A native of Spokane, Wash., Johnson is the fourth American-born player ever to be named AHL MVP, following Eddie Olson (1953), Eric Boguniecki (2002) and Keith Aucoin (2010).

Other 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), Corey Locke (2011) and Cory Conacher (2012).

The AHL’s most valuable player award honors the late Les Cunningham, a member of the AHL Hall of Fame who was a five-time league All-Star and three-time Calder Cup champion with the Cleveland Barons.

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 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 2012-13 regular season ends on Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.