TORONTO – The NHL awards kicked off the way it should Thursday night, with more hardware for Alexander Ovechkin.
The Washington Capitals superstar winger took home the Lester B. Pearson Award, given annually by members of the NHL Players’ Association to the most outstanding player.
“It’s a big award because it’s who the players think is the best player in the NHL. It means a lot,” Ovechkin said.
Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins were the other finalists. All three were also nominated for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, which was slated to be awarded at the end of the evening.
The Pearson gives Ovechkin his third major trophy this season after already picking up the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer (65) and the Art Ross Trophy as the top point-getter (112).
“I think I’m the happiest 22-year-old guy on the planet right now,” Ovechkin, in a sharp tuxedo, told reporters at the awards.
“Everything I’ve got I make myself,” added the Moscow native. “I’m working hard and I know it’s improving.”
Ovechkin was the first player to eclipse the 60-goal barrier since Mario Lemieux in 1996.
“I mean, 65, that’s an awesome number,” said Iginla. “Every team that plays against him is trying to shut him down. I remember we played against him and we were trying our hardest. We were doing a great job for a while and then he got two goals. He only needs a crack.
“He’s got such a great shot. He competes very hard and goes to the front of the net and can beat you so many ways.”
Ovechkin is only the second Russian-born player to win the Pearson following Sergei Fedorov in 1993-94.
Iginla, who won the Pearson in 2002, recorded his second career 50-goal season and a career-best 98 points in 82 games. The Flames captain also led his team with a plus-27 and with nine game-winning goals.
Malkin, the Calder Trophy winner last season as rookie of the year, led the Penguins in scoring with 106 points (47-59) in 82 games. He picked up 46 points (20-26) in 28 games while Sidney Crosby was sidelined with an ankle injury.