The annual NHL Awards in Las Vegas featured the usual assortment of bright lights, glitter and plenty of confetti on Wednesday night as four OHL graduates were recognized for their tremendous accomplishments during the 2018-19 season.
Most prominently, Stanley Cup champion and NHL Playoff MVP Ryan O’Reilly (Erie Otters) was in the spotlight, earning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s Best Defensive Forward.
The St. Louis Blues centreman led the NHL in face-off wins for the second straight season (1,086), was fourth in shorthanded face-off wins (121) and eight in face-off percentage (56.9 percent). He had 1,001 voting points including 48 first-place votes to edge out finalists Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights) and Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins).
A 28-year-old native of Clinton, Ont., O’Reilly set career highs in assists (49) and points (77) over 82 games this past season. He added a franchise record 23 points (8-15–23) in the playoffs. O’Reilly becomes the second player in Blues franchise history after Rick Meagher (1989-90) to win the Selke Trophy.
A former first overall OHL Priority Selection choice in 2007, O’Reilly played two seasons in Erie, winning gold medals with Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tourmanent in the process before being selected 33rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2009 NHL Draft.
A story of true perseverance, Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano (Owen Sound Attack) earned the Norris Trophy as NHL Defenceman of the Year. Giordano, who wasn’t drafted to either the NHL or the OHL, becomes the fourth player age 35 or older to claim the award following Nicklas Lidstrom, Doug Harvey and fellow OHL alumnus Al MacInnis.
Giordano finished second among NHL defencemen in scoring this past season, recording 74 points (17-57–74) along with a plus-39 rating. He also led the Flames in ice time, playing an average of 24:14 per game. He becomes the first player in Flames franchise history to win the award, edging out finalists in Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning).
Giordano played two seasons in Owen Sound after making the club as an undrafted free agent. He amassed 97 points (32-65–97) over 133 career regular season games before signing as a free agent with the Flames in 2004.
A pair of former Soo Greyhounds also received awards on Wednesday.
New York Islanders netminder Robin Lehner, who played one season in Sault Ste. Marie in 2009-10, earned the NHL’s Bill Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Lehner played to a 25-13-5 record with a 2.13 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts to capture the WIlliam M. Jennings Trophy as a goaltender on the team allowing the fewest regular season goals. His best NHL season on the ice came on the heels of revealing addiction and mental health issues in a self-penned article for The Athletic during training camp.
In a moving speech, Lehner thanked Islanders coach Barry Trotz, club general manager Lou Lamoriello and his teammates.
Fellow Hounds graduate Wayne Simmonds of the Nashville Predators earned the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities on and off the ice. Simmonds also played a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.
The 30-year-old was a finalist for the award last season and had 30 points (17-13–30) in 79 games between Nashville and Philadelphia in 2018-19. The veteran winger was an alternate captain in Philadelphia and served as a board member for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation for the sixth straight year, visiting community rinks and engaging with students.
Simmonds also served as the honorary chairman of the foundation’s annual golf tournament for the fourth straight year and worked with the planning committee to host the Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend, including writing welcome letters to each participant. Other finalists included fellow OHL grads Mark Giordano (Owen Sound Attack) of the Calgary Flames and Justin Williams (Plymouth Whalers) of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Simmonds played two seasons in the OHL between Sault Ste. Marie and Owen Sound from 2006-08, recording 124 career regular season points (56-68–124) over 126 games. Hew as a second round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2007.
The city of Flint, Michigan, home of the OHL’s Firebirds, was also on full display Wednesday night as Rico Phillips earned the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. The honour recognizes an individual, who like O’Ree, has worked to make a positive impact on his or her community, culture or society to make people better through hockey.
Phillips, who grew up in Flint, has always desired to make his community a better place. His impact on the community has been made through his two passions in life, firefighting and hockey. He was the founder of the Flint Inner City Youth Hockey program. For the past six years, this program has provided the children of Flint the opportunity to play hockey for free.
The program builds character by promoting commitment, hard work, belief and openness. The impact is felt by the participants, their families and volunteers.
2018-19 NHL Award Winners:
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) – Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (Erie Otters 2009)
James Norris Trophy (Defenceman of the Year) – Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (Owen Sound Attack 2004)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Perseverance, Dedication) – Robin Lehner, New York Islanders (Soo Greyhounds 2010)
William M. Jennings Trophy (Fewest Team Goals-Against) – Robin Lehner, New York Islanders (Soo Greyhounds 2010)
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award (Leadership in Community) – Wayne Simmonds, Nashville Predators (Soo Greyhounds 2008)
2018-19 NHL First All-Star Team:
Centre – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Erie Otters 2015)
Defence – Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (Owen Sound Attack 2004)
Defence – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks (Brampton Battalion 2003)
2018-19 NHL Second All-Star Team:
Right Wing – Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (London Knights 2007)
Defence – John Carlson, Washington Capitals (London Knights 2009)
2018-19 NHL All-Rookie Team:
Forward – Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning (Erie Otters 2017)
Goaltender – Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Owen Sound Attack 2013)
For more details and full coverage of the 2019 NHL Awards, visit nhl.com.