Wednesday, June 20, 2018 | 7:45 p.m.
As has become the norm in the NHL, the Golden Knights stole the show once again at the annual NHL Awards show Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Teammates William Karlsson and Deryk Engelland strolled down the red carpet, opening their suit-jackets to unveil the flashy inner-lining covered with Golden Knights logos. The two received the loudest ovations from fans as they took the velvet rope-lined walk.
Then the show started and it seemed more like a Golden Knights team banquet than an NHL award show as Vegas claimed four of the 14 total awards handed out.
Gerard Gallant was awarded the Jack Adams Award for the best coach in the NHL after leading the expansion team to 109 points, division and conference titles and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s an organizational award,” Gallant said. “I think our team had an outstanding season and everyone did a good job, so I get to (win the award) because of it.”
Gallant is partially speaking of general manager George McPhee and the job he did in constructing the lineup almost exactly a year ago in the expansion draft. McPhee and his scouting staff found gems in Karlsson, Erik Haula and others, while still building for the future by acquiring a slew of high draft picks.
For his efforts, McPhee was named the league's general manager of the year.
“You don’t sign up to win awards like this — you sign up to win a Stanley Cup,” McPhee said. “It’s certainly great for the organization to have four people nominated for awards. Less than a year ago we were trying to pick a team. We’ll enjoy this night with our families and friends.”
McPhee took the stage to a large ovation followed by a “Go Knights Go” chant from the crowd.
“Thank you Bill Foley for giving all of us a second chance,” McPhee said, lifting the trophy in a cheers to the Golden Knights owner sitting a few rows back. “And thanks to our Golden Knights fans. Thank you for making Las Vegas a wonderful place to live, work, play hockey, and call home.”
As for the players, Karlsson walked away with the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the player who exhibited the best sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.
“I want to thank my family — my mom and dad for always driving me to practice,” Karlsson said. “I also want to thank my teammates, the other Golden Misfits, especially Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. And I want to thank the fans. You guys are the best in the league.”
Karlsson led the Golden Knights in goals (43) and points (78) and shattered his previous career highs in nearly every statistical category. Perhaps more impressive, though, was Karlsson’s play on the defensive end — leading Vegas with 78 takeaways while playing major penalty kill minutes and amassing only 12 total penalty minutes.
“It was a huge honor to be here with so many great players around the league. It’s pretty incredible,” Karlsson said. “I try to play hockey the right way and combine that with scoring goals, so it means a lot.”
The Golden Knights opted to not name a captain in their inaugural season, but Engelland served as the emotional leader from the first time they took the ice for a regular season game at T-Mobile Arena.
Engelland stepped into the spotlight and delivered a heartfelt speech about the Oct. 1 tragic mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip that ended with “We are Vegas Strong.”
He and his wife, Melissa, then started a foundation to help survivors of the tragedy and was a major part of the Las Vegas community. For that, he was rewarded with the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
“This season was extremely special,” Engelland said. “The group of guys we have, there are a lot of guys that are great leaders and do a lot in the community that could probably be here instead of me. I’m just honored to be put in the category of Mark Messier for that award for everything he’s done for hockey.”
Other notable award winners from around the league were Edmonton’s Connor McDavid taking home his second-straight Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar winning the Selke Trophy for top defensive forward, and New Jersey’s Taylor Hall winning the Hart Trophy for the league’s most valuable player.
Wednesday night’s festivities served as the final NHL event of the 2017-18 season, and for the Golden Knights it followed the trend of most of the year: A huge success.