Saturday, May 18, 2024

NHL awards: Kings captain Anze Kopitar wins Lady Byng Trophy

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Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ captain and longest-tenured player, won the NHL’s Lady Byng Trophy on Monday, awarded to the most sportsmanlike and gentlemanly player who combined his exemplary conduct with excellent performance as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

He previously won the award following the 2015-16 season, when he also earned the first of his two Frank J. Selke trophies, awarded to the NHL’s most outstanding defensive forward. Kopitar missed the cut as a finalist for that award this year, which was won handily by the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron for a record sixth time.

Kopitar is the fourth King to garner the Lady Byng and joined Wayne Gretzky as the franchise’s only multiple-time honoree. He is the first two-time winner since then-Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis captured consecutive trophies in 2010 and 2011.

Entering the final season of his contract, Kopitar, 35, has shown few signs of falling off at an age when most players generally settle into a reduced role. Last season he led the Kings in scoring, something he’s done in all but two seasons during his career, and was their top faceoff option as well. Combined with his physical strength, defensive acumen and calming presence, Kopitar was on the ice in virtually every key situation. Nevertheless, he accumulated just four penalty minutes, a practically impeccable total for a player who logs first-line minutes.

On a day when Kopitar added to his burgeoning trophy case, the focus was largely on trade rumors about the Kings and another center, Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Winnipeg Jets. Though no deal was final, the crescendo of rumors and speculation grew louder ahead of the opening of free agency later this week.

Ever magnanimous, Kopitar first mentioned the other finalists, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and the New Jersey Devils’ Nico Hischier.

“First and foremost, congratulations to Jack and Brayden for being nominated. It was very well-deserved and I’m sure you guys will win a bunch of these in the future,” Kopitar said during his acceptance speech.

“Thank you to (Kings owners) Mr. and Mrs. Anschutz, their commitment to our team is astronomical and they always try to make us better. The organization, from top to bottom, starting with (team president) Luc (Robitaille) and (General Manager) Rob (Blake), and the coaches, the staff that put in the work every day. This also cannot happen without my teammates, I love you guys, and thank you for all of your support.”

OTHER AWARDS

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player as voted by his peers, a clear-cut choice after the highest-scoring season by a player in more than a quarter-century.

McDavid received all but one of the 196 first-place votes to win the Hart for the third time. He won the Lindsay for the fourth time.

The Oilers’ captain led the league with 64 goals, 89 assists and 153 points – the highest point total since Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux had 161 in 1995-96.

McDavid previously won the Hart in 2017 and 2021 and the Lindsay in 2017, 2018 and 2021. Universally recognized as the best hockey player in the world, McDavid is still searching for his first Stanley Cup title after Edmonton lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual champion Vegas.

Boston’s Linus Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie on a big night for the Bruins, who won a league-record 65 games in the regular season. Ullmark, who took the honor for the first time, led the league with a 1.89 goals-against average and .938 save percentage and was tied for the most wins with 40 – getting them in just 48 starts.

Seattle’s Matty Beniers won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. Beniers led all rookies with 57 points and was tied for the lead among them in goals with 24, helping the Kraken make the playoffs in their second year of existence.

“I think I was pretty fortunate this year production-wise,” Beniers said. “Every year is not going to be like that, I know that, but it was definitely a good start. I was obviously really happy and thankful for the year.”

Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos won the Mark Messier Leadership Award, and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang – who had a stroke on Nov. 28 but returned to play 12 days later – won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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