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Sabres announce 2019-20 Player Awards

The Buffalo Sabres have announced their annual Player Awards for the 2019-20 season.

The awards are presented by Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center, KeyBank, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, LECOM, Fallsview Casino, and Labatt USA.

The recipients are as follows.

Most Valuable Player – Jack Eichel

Eichel scored a career-high 36 goals in 68 games during the pandemic-shortened season, good for eighth in the NHL. His 78 points ranked 10th in the league while his 1.15 points per game represented a new career high, surpassing last season’s mark of 1.06.

The Sabres captain also ranked fifth in the league with seven multi-goal games and 13th with 20 multi-point games. He recorded three separate point streaks of seven contests or more, including a 17-game run that fell one short of Gilbert Perreault’s franchise record (on technicality.)

Eichel’s work ethic, meanwhile, earned comparisons to Michael Jordan following the airing of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” in May.

Rookie of the Year – Victor Olofsson

An injury that cost Olofsson 15 games may have been all that separated the winger from Calder Trophy consideration. Olofsson still managed to finish second among NHL rookies with 20 goals and fourth with 42 points in 54 contests, the highest totals by a Sabres rookie since Eichel and Sam Reinhart in 2015-16.

While he wowed fans with his lethal shot, his ability to adapt to the NHL game stuck out to teammates.

“I think his work ethic and his dedication to hockey is probably the thing that jumps out the most,” Eichel said. “Obviously, he wants to be a good hockey player. He cares about his game, he takes care of himself and he’s constantly works on his shot. He definitely holds himself accountable. When you put those things together, you’re bound to have success.”

Unsung Hero – Kyle Okposo

Okposo found a home alongside Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson on what became affectionately known as the LOG line (or, to some, the Roaring Twenties). Coach Ralph Krueger championed the trio as a tone-setter for other lines to follow, and Okposo’s reliability and tenacity were key ingredients.

The winger also added an offensive punch, tallying 19 points (9+10) in 52 games.

Okposo described his mindset early in the season: “Go out there and be the best player that I can be. I’m focusing on what I can do to be the best and that’s it. There’s not external pressure, there’s no external factors that are entering into my brain. It doesn’t matter if I play five minutes or 20 minutes.

“I’m going to go out there and be the best I can in that shift and that’s all I can control. That’s what I’m focused on.”

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