TORONTO – The National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) announced Wednesday that Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals have been selected as finalists for the 2008-09 Lester B. Pearson Award. The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.
The three players also are the finalists for the Hart Trophy, presented annually to the NHL's Most Valuable Player.
For the first time in the history of the Lester B. Pearson Award, all three finalists hail from Russia. This year will mark just the third time that a Russian player will accept the honor, following Sergei Fedorov (1993-94) and Ovechkin (2007-08). Ovechkin is looking to win the Pearson Award for the second consecutive season, and is now a three-time finalist for the award (including 2005-06). Malkin is also a finalist for the Pearson Award for the second consecutive season. Datsyuk is a Pearson Award finalist for the first time in his NHL career.
Named after the 14th Prime Minister of Canada, the Lester B. Pearson Award has been voted on by the players since the 1970-71 season, when Phil Esposito was the inaugural recipient. Many of the legends of hockey have been recipients of the Lester B. Pearson Award, including Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman. The Lester B. Pearson Award will be presented during the 2009 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 18.
The finalists will allocate a total of $20,000 to the grassroots hockey programs of their choice through the NHLPA's Goals & Dreams fund. The recipient of the Pearson Award will assign $10,000 to his selected program, while the two finalists will each allocate $5,000. Launched in November 1999, the Goals & Dreams fund was created by NHLPA members as a way for the players to give something back to the game they love, and has distributed more than $17-million worldwide to a variety of hockey initiatives.