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Swapping Sweaters for Suits: NHL Awards Preview 2016

by Jameson Olive / Florida Panthers

It’s time to swap sweaters for suits -- the Florida Panthers are hitting the red carpet.

Hosted by actor Will Arnett and featuring a musical performance by X Ambassadors, the 2016 NHL Awards will be broadcast live on NBCSN on Wednesday, June 22 at 7 p.m. ET from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The annual event will honor the best regular-season players in a wide range of categories, including most valuable player (Hart Trophy), outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy), outstanding defenseman (Norris Trophy) and outstanding rookie (Calder Trophy).

A year after defenseman Aaron Ekblad captured the second Calder Trophy in franchise history, the Panthers are once again poised to take home some serious hardware, as forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, as well as head coach Gerard Gallant, were all named finalists for major awards.

Here’s a rundown of the Panthers’ nominations…

Aleskander Barkov, Lady Byng

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, Barkov established career highs in goals (28), assists (31) and points (59) during his third season with the Panthers. He also established a career high and shared fourth place in the NHL with eight game-winning goals, the most by any Florida player since 2006-07.

Barkov is joined by Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins as finalists for this year’s Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

With steady hands and an even steadier head, the 20-year-old Barkov accumulated a career-low eight penalty minutes in 66 regular-season contests – the fewest among the League’s top 50 scorers. He is the first Panthers player to be a Lady Byng finalist since defenseman Brian Campbell won the award in 2012.

“I think I have been taking steps every year,” Barkov told earlier in the year. “I’m being a better player every year and, hopefully, I’m going to be a better player next year. I’m just going to work hard and see what happens.”

Jaromir Jagr, Masterton

An ageless wonder, the 44-year-old Jagr notched 27 goals and 39 assists during his first full season with the Panthers, making him not only the oldest player in NHL history to lead his team in scoring, but also the oldest player to surpass the 60-point plateau.

"You have to love the game if you’re going to play at a high level,” said Jagr, who was previously nominated for the Masterton in 2014.

Jagr is joined by Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers and Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins as finalists for this year’s Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” as determined by the local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Playing in his 22nd NHL season, Jagr’s legendary work ethic and off-ice mentorship, particularly with linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Barkov, was considered nearly as valuable to Florida’s success as his on-ice production. Whether he was on the bench or in the locker room, Jagr could often be found chatting up his much younger teammates, bestowing upon them the unique tips and tricks that have helped extend the life of his legendary career.

"He's always talking and telling us what to do on the ice after every practice," Barkov said. "We try to practice something new, shooting, passing, skating, so we get to know each other more and that's why we play so good."

Jagr, who signed a one-year extension with the Panthers in May, will enter next season with 1,868 points, putting him 19 away from tying Mark Messier for second place on the NHL’s all-time list.

Gerard Gallant, Jack Adams

A year removed from an NHL-best 25-point improvement in the standings, Gallant led the Panthers to the Atlantic Division title while setting franchise marks for wins (47) and points (103).

Gallant is joined by Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals and Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars as finalists for this year’s Jack Adams Award, given annually to the coach who has "contributed the most to his team's success."

In Gallant’s second season behind the bench for Florida, the Panthers had a franchise-record 12 game win streak from Dec. 15 to Jan 10, a record seven-game home win streak (Dec. 10 to Jan. 3) and a record six-game road win streak (Dec. 15 to Jan. 10).

“I think one of Gerard’s biggest attributes isn’t what he does do in the room, but what he doesn’t,” center Derek MacKenzie said. “He allows the guys to control the room and do what we feel is best… I think it’s because of the way that he’s treated us that we certainly feel obligated to do what we can every night to win.”


Be sure to stay tuned to, Panthers Vision and on Twitter @FlaPanthers in the coming days for coverage from Vegas, the red carpet and the awards show.

Once the NHL Awards wrap up, continue following along as we head to Buffalo for the NHL Entry Draft on June 24 and 25.

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