Reign’s Budaj named AHL’s top goaltender

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Peter Budaj of the Ontario Reign is the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2015-16 season. The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities. 

Named a 2015-16 First Team AHL All-Star last week, Budaj is just the second goaltender in the last half-century to win as many as 40 games in an AHL season, sporting a record of 41-14-4 entering the final week of the regular season. Bouncing back from a 2014-15 campaign in which he was winless in 19 appearances (0-9-6), the 14th-year pro has set a career high for minutes played in a season (3,514) and has started 59 of the first 66 contests for the Pacific Division champion Reign, leading the league in wins, goals-against average (1.74), save percentage (.932) and shutouts (9) while ranking second in shots faced (1,501) and total saves (1,399).

A native of Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Budaj also made his return to the National Hockey League this season, earning the win for Los Angeles on Feb. 12 against the New York Rangers. Budaj was originally a second-round draft choice by Colorado in 2001 and spent three years with the Hershey Bears (2002-05) before playing the next nine full seasons in the NHL with Colorado and Montreal. The two-time Olympian has a career record of 125-107-36 in 297 NHL contests, and is 97-78-20 with a 2.48 GAA, a .918 save percentage and 19 shutouts in 211 career appearances in the AHL. 

The Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1984, honors former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Baz Bastien, who played four seasons in goal with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets (1945-49) before suffering a career-ending eye injury. Bastien would go on to serve as head coach and general manager of the Hornets, leading them to the 1967 Calder Cup championship. Previous winners of the award include Jon Casey (1985), Sam St. Laurent (1986), Mark Laforest (1987, 1991), Felix Potvin (1992), Corey Hirsch (1993), Manny Legace (1996), Martin Biron (1999), Dwayne Roloson (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004, 2007), Ryan Miller (2005), Michael Leighton (2008), Cory Schneider (2009), Jonathan Bernier (2010), Jake Allen (2014) and Matt Murray (2015). 

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 2015-16 regular season ends Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week. 

The winner of the 2015-16 Eddie Shore Award (outstanding defenseman) will be announced Tuesday.