Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds and Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler were named finalists for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. The award is given annually to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season and plays a role in his community growing the game of hockey.
The winner will be announced at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on June 20.
Messier solicited suggestions from teams and League personnel and fans, but the former Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks captain makes the final selection of the three finalists and the winner.
Engelland, 36, had NHL career highs in assists (18) and points (23) for the Golden Knights. He was a fixture in the Las Vegas community following the tragic events of Oct. 1 and made a passionate pregame speech prior to their home opener Oct. 10. Engelland and his wife, Melissa, started a program inviting those affected by the tragedy to Golden Knights home games throughout the season, meeting and thanking each guest after the games. He also partnered with Ronald McDonald House and Three Square to help children and families in need, and continued a five-year relationship with local firefighters that has raised more than $40,000 for children who cannot afford to play hockey.
Video: Engelland on being a finalist for Messier Award
Simmonds, 29, scored 24 goals for the Flyers, his fifth straight season with 24 or more goals, to help them to their eighth Stanley Cup Playoff berth in 11 years. During every other Flyers home game, Simmonds hosted a different military unit in a private suite and met each group at the end of the evening. He also reached out to a group of hockey players from the United States Air Force to invite them to practice and skated with them after their tour of duty. He has been on the board of directors for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation since 2014 while hosting Wayne's Road Hockey Warriors to help grow the sport in his hometown of Scarborough, Ontario, since 2012.
Wheeler, 31, has been Jets captain since 2016-17. His NHL career high 91 points included 68 assists, which tied Flyers forward Claude Giroux for the League lead, and helped the Jets to the best season in franchise history (52-20-10, 114 points). Highlighted by his work as an ambassador with the True North Youth Foundation (TNYF) that aims to provide consistent and innovative programs for underserved youth in Manitoba, Wheeler launched several initiatives within TNYF during a summer visit to Camp Manitou. He spent time with students at several events, including classroom visits and the Winnipeg Jets Gala Dinner. Wheeler was also an on-ice instructor for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, a play-based program designed to increase school attendance and high school graduation rates in socially- and economically-challenged schools in the city.