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Peers name Iginla as top player finalist

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
TORONTO  – The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced today that Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals are finalists for the 2007-08 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.

Iginla and Ovechkin have a previous history with the Lester B. Pearson Award. Iginla was the recipient of the award in 2001-02 and Ovechkin was a finalist in his 2005-06 rookie season.

This season, Iginla led the Flames to another hard-fought playoff berth as he notched the second 50 goal campaign of his career and punished opposing defenders all season long. Ovechkin, already able to count the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies among his collection this year, led the Capitals back to the playoffs and became the first player in 12 years to score 60 goals in a season. Malkin, meanwhile, solidified his place among the elite in the game with his first 100 point season (106), finishing second in the points race in his sophomore year in the NHL. 

Named for the former 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 the first award presented during the NHL Awards Television Special in Toronto, Ontario on Thursday, June 12, 2008.  

The finalists will allocate a total of $40,000 to the grassroots hockey programs of their choice through the NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams fund.  The winner will assign $20,000 to his selected program, while the two finalists will each allocate $10,000. 

Launched in November 1999, the Goals & Dreams fund was created by NHLPA members to assist grassroots hockey, and has distributed more than $16 million worldwide to a variety of hockey initiatives.  

Jarome Iginla, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, appeared in all 82 games for the Calgary Flames in 2007-08, finishing the season with 50 goals and 48 assists for a career high 98 points. The 2001-02 winner of the Lester B. Pearson Award, Iginla was once again a force on a nightly basis for Calgary, using his impressive skill set that combines speed, strength and a quick release. The 30-year-old right-winger has become the level by which all power forwards are measured. His experience and leadership abilities have elevated Iginla into a perennial contender for the Pearson Award, as he has gained the respect and admiration of his fellow players. If awarded the 2007-08 Lester B. Pearson Award, Iginla would join eight other players who have received the honour on more than one occasion. 

Evgeni Malkin, of Magnitogorsk, Russia appeared in all 82 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading the team in goals (47) and assists (59) while finishing second in the NHL in total points (106). Malkin proved this season that he is a dominant force in the league with his strong play while key Penguins teammates were out of the line-up with injuries.  His 15-game point streak earlier in the year is the longest ever for a Russian born player. The 21-year-old combines strength and pure scoring ability and is already mentioned alongside the top talents in the game, in only his second full season in the NHL. The 2006-07 Calder Trophy recipient is looking to become the fourth member of the Penguins to win the Lester B. Pearson Award, following in the footsteps of Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.

Alexander Ovechkin, of Moscow, Russia, appeared in all 82 games for the Washington Capitals, securing the NHL’s top spot for goals (65) and points (112). A finalist of the 2005-06 Lester B. Pearson Award, Ovechkin has taken the NHL by storm with his unrivalled ability to score goals and his exuberant enthusiasm for the game of hockey. In just his third season, the 22-year-old led the Capitals to the playoffs this year, after an incredible run that saw the club clinch the Southeast Division crown. Ovechkin, along with Malkin, would become just the second Russian born player to receive the honour, following Sergei Fedorov (1993-94). The Lester B. Pearson Award would be Ovechkin's third major trophy win of 2007-08, following the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in points and the Maurice Richard Trophy for topping all goal scorers during the regular season.


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