Four Western Hockey League Alumni up for NHL Awards Wednesday


Four Western Hockey League Alumni have been listed as finalists for this year’s National Hockey League Awards.

Former Seattle Thunderbird Mathew Barzal is a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the leagues best rookie each season. Former Moose Jaw Warrior Deryk Engelland is a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award after helping his team reach the Stanley Cup Final. The other two, Jared Bednar and Kevin Cheveldayoff, are finalists for hockey operations categories. Bednar is the coach of the Colorado Avalanche who, after one of the worst seasons in NHL history, turned the page and returned to the playoffs this season. This impressive feat has Bednar nominated for the Jack Adams Award, given to the Coach of the Year. Cheveldayoff, a former Brandon Wheat King, is the General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets. A team who was busy at the trade deadline acquiring talent to eventually make it to the Western Conference Final. His talents as a GM have him nominated for the General Manager of the Year Award.

Barzal was one of the New York Islanders best players this season. Besting superstar teammate John Tavares by one point, Barzal exploded onto the NHL scene as a rookie, posting 85 points (22G-63A) in 82 games. Barzal was known for his play-making abilities, posting 40 assists in his first season with the Thunderbirds of the WHL. He improved on his total racking up 45 and 61 assists respectively in his next two seasons with Seattle. He concluded his WHL career with 79 points in 41 games before making the jump to the NHL. Barzal’s 85 points were 20 more the second highest scoring rookie Clayton Keller. Averaging over a point-per-game in his rookie season, the Coquitlam, B.C. product has made a strong first impression on the league.

Engelland helped lead his Vegas Golden Knights to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in their inaugural season, with his off-ice leadership matching his passion on the ice. As such, he’s been named as a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, given to an individual as they are recognized as a superior leader within their sport, and as a contributing member of society. The former Moose Jaw Warrior who played 243 games in his WHL, resided in Las Vegas and played 107 games for the ECHL’s Wranglers between 2002 and 2004. His contributions were noted as he addressed the crowd directly before Vegas’s first game, pledging the team’s help in the healing progress after the deadly shooting in the city just days before. Engelland’s leadership throughout the season has become a bright beacon of strength in a strong hockey market.

Bednar played for many team’s in his 152-game WHL career, including the Saskatoon Blades, Spokane Chiefs, Medicine Hat Tigers, and Prince Albert Raiders. While the Yorkton, Sask. product never made it to the NHL as a player, he has found success there as a coach. Starting his coaching career in the ECHL, he served many years as an assistant coach before being named head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays where he made it to the American Conference Finals in his first season at the helm. A year later, the Stingrays captured the Kelly Cup for the third time in franchise history. That success translated to the American Hockey League as he found himself head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters in 2015-16 where he won the Calder Cup.

Bednar’s ascent continued for the 2016-17 season as he was named the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Bednar turned the team around as they made the playoffs and gave the President’s Trophy winning Nashville Predators a run in the first round before losing out.

Kevin Cheveldayoff played 214 games over four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings, transitioning into the AHL soon after. Drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round, 16th overall, of the 1988 NHL Draft, Cheveldayoff’s return to the prairies has yielded success as the General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets. WHL Alumni have guided the team’s strong results, with Cheveldayoff recruiting and retaining talent including Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey, Tyler Myers, Joe Morrow, and Dustin Byfuglien who is coming off one of his best season’s in the NHL. Cheveldayoff’s drafting abilities, and contract negotiation skills, have him recognized as one of the NHL’s best General Managers.

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