Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets won the Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player voted for the best combination of sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability, on Monday.
The 25-year-old is the first player in Atlanta Jets/Thrashers history to win the award.
“It’s such a great honor,” Connor said. “I would like to thank my family and friends. They are always there whenever I need them, and you know, their unwavering support means the world to me.”
Connor, who has two minor penalties in 79 games, led Winnipeg and set NHL career highs in goals (47), assists (46) and points (93) this season. He also led the Jets forwards in ice time per game (a career-high 21:47) and was 12th in the NHL in takeouts (66).
“I think you have to be smart with your feet, get in the right position so you can check with your stick,” Connor said. “I just play my game, so in that aspect, is it difficult not to take penalties? I don’t think about it at all when I’m on the ice. That’s just how I’ve always played the game and always will. .”
[RELATED: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winners]
Connor was one of three players to take less than 10 penalty minutes while averaging at least 20:00 of ice time per game (minimum 50 games), joining Ryan Pulock New York Islanders and Mikey Anderson of the Los Angeles Kings.
“That award, the way I see it, one of my favorite players growing up, being a Detroit kid watching the Red Wings every night, is Pavel Datsyuk. He had a run, winning ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, four consecutive Lady Byng trophies,” Connor said. “For me, I tried to replicate and do everything he did. I watched a ton of YouTube videos. He was so creative and I loved that. I tried to play like Pavel Datsyuk as much as possible. To see him come full circle and get my name as the same trophy as him is pretty special.”
The award was presented this season by Lucie and Tanya Bossy, the wife and daughter of Mike Bossy, who died following a battle with lung cancer on April 15.
Bossy, one of the greatest scorers in NHL history who helped the New York Islanders win four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1983, won the Lady Byng Trophy three times (1983- 84, 1986).
“I came across something my dad wrote in his book about his first experience winning the Lady Byng Trophy, and thought I might share that with you,” Tanya Bossy said. “He wrote: ‘I won my first Lady Byng Trophy as the League’s Most Gentlemanly Player. I was happy to get the Lady Byng, but I didn’t understand what I had done that year that I hadn’t done in previous years. ‘
“So I think that captures everything about my dad. He was in a sense in his daily life and in a sense on the ice, showing sportsmanship and being a gentleman was in his blood. It was just the way he was and the way he acted in his life he definitely set a high standard for everyone to look up to for strength, courage and growth, and as a recipient of this award on three occasions it was evident that my father considered sportsmanship to be an important part of the game.”
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jacob Slavin and Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon were the other finalists. Slavin won the award last season.