Monarchs’ O’Neill voted AHL MVP

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that right wing Brian O’Neill of the Manchester Monarchs has been voted the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player for the 2014-15 season.

The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

O’Neill has scored 22 goals and leads the AHL with 56 assists and 78 points in 69 games heading into the final weekend of the regular season. His plus-28 rating leads all AHL forwards and ranks second overall, and he is tied for the league lead with 26 power-play points. Powered by O’Neill, the Monarchs are third in the league in offense (3.19 goals per game) and first in power-play efficiency (21.0 percent), and have clinched their first Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular-season points champions. O’Neill has strung together three separate scoring streaks of at least seven games each this season, and his five-assist night at Portland on Dec. 17 established AHL season highs for both assists and points in a game. He was selected to participate in the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic but missed the event due to injury, and last week was voted a Second Team AHL All-Star.

A 26-year-old native of Yardley, Pa., O’Neill has steadily and dramatically improved his offensive numbers over his three professional seasons; he put up 15 points as a rookie in 2012-13 and tallied 47 points a year ago. O’Neill, who played four seasons at Yale University and finished as the second-highest scorer in school history, signed as a free agent with Los Angeles on Mar. 15, 2012, and has totaled 52 goals, 90 assists and a plus-60 rating in 190 career AHL games, all with Manchester.

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. Previous winners of the Les Cunningham Award 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 Spezza (2005), Darren Haydar (2007), Keith Aucoin (2010), Cory Conacher (2012), Tyler Johnson (2013) and Travis Morin (2014).

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 2014-15 regular season ends Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.