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Gragnani claims Eddie Shore Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Marc-Andre Gragnani of the Portland Pirates has been named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman for the 2010-11 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Gragnani leads all AHL defensemen in assists (48) and points (60) and ranks fourth among blueliners with a plus-22 rating – all career highs – in 63 games for Portland this season. On the Pirates’ roster, Gragnani is tops in assists and plus/minus and second in points to help lead his team’s bid for an Atlantic Division title. The 24-year-old native of Montreal has set Pirates franchise records for assists and points in a season by a defenseman, and he tied the club’s single-game mark with five assists vs. Worcester on Jan. 15. He also had a string of six consecutive multiple-point games from Mar. 1-12, part of a seven-game scoring streak overall, and ranked second in the entire AHL during March with 20 points (3-17-20) in 13 contests.

Gragnani, a third-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2005, has also appeared in six games with the Sabres this season. His first career NHL point was the assist on the game-winning goal vs. the New York Rangers on Mar. 30, and his first NHL goal was the overtime winner at Carolina on Apr. 3.

A fourth-year pro, Gragnani has totaled 47 goals and 159 assists for 206 points in 283 career AHL games.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1959, honors the late Eddie Shore, a member of both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the American Hockey League Hall of Fame who is widely regarded as one of hockey’s greatest defensemen. Shore won a total of five Calder Cups in his career, including two as the general manager of the Buffalo Bisons and three as the longtime owner of the Springfield Indians. Previous winners of the Eddie Shore Award include Steve Kraftcheck (1959), Al Arbour (1965), Noel Price (1970, ’72, ’76), Brian Engblom (1977), Terry Murray (1978, ’79), Brad Shaw (1987), Dave Fenyves (1988, ’89), Eric Weinrich (1990), Darren Rumble (1997), John Slaney (2001, ’02), Curtis Murphy (2003, ’04), Niklas Kronwall (2005), Sheldon Brookbank (2007), Andrew Hutchinson (2008) and Johnny Boychuk (2009).

Celebrating its historic 75th anniversary season in 2010-11, 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 2010-11 season ends on Apr. 10, and 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.