Sparks voted top goaltender in AHL for 2017-18

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Garret Sparks of the Toronto Marlies is the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2017-18 season.

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

Photo: Christian Bonin

Named a 2017-18 First Team AHL All-Star last week, Sparks has a record of 30-9-2 in 42 appearances for Toronto this season, leading the league in goals-against average (1.81), save percentage (.936) and shutouts (6, tied) while ranking third in wins. Sparks has helped backstop the Marlies to the league’s top-ranked defense (2.22 goals allowed per game) and top-ranked penalty kill (89.0 percent efficiency) as Toronto has rolled to the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular-season champions as well as its fifth North Division title in the last seven years.

Sparks, 19-3-2 since Dec. 31, has allowed more than three goals in a start only four times all season and has strung together six separate winning streaks of at least four decisions. The CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for January, Sparks is the first goaltender in the Toronto Maple Leafs system to earn 30 wins in an AHL season since AHL Hall of Famer Bob Perreault won 31 games for Rochester in 1967-68.

A 24-year-old native of Elmhurst, Ill., Sparks has gone 79-28-7 with a 2.13 GAA, a .927 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 120 career AHL appearances, all with Toronto. He is in his fifth season in the Maple Leafs organization after being selected in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Draft, and has appeared in 17 career NHL games with the Leafs.

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), Matt Murray (2015), Peter Budaj (2016) and Troy Grosenick (2017).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. More than 87 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 2017-18 regular season ends Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.

The winners of the 2017-18 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award (AHL man of the year) and Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award (outstanding rookie) will be announced Thursday.