Sidney Crosby, who shared a home with Mario Lemieux when he arrived in the NHL, now finds himself in the company of another former great.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was named the league's most valuable player Thursday night at the annual awards ceremony in Toronto, joining Wayne Gretzky on the short list of 19-year-olds to capture the Hart Trophy.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby poses with the Hart Trophy, left, and Lester B. Pearson Award after winning them at the NHL awards.
(Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
Gretzky earned the honour in 1980, when he was five months younger than Crosby is now.
Crosby garnered 91 first-place votes and 1,225 points, followed by Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo (801) and New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur (763).
Earlier Thursday, Crosby was the recipient of the Lester B. Pearson award as the most outstanding player as selected by his peers.
The smooth-skating centre also became the youngest player in league history to win the Art Ross Trophy, recording an NHL-best 120 points this season.
He is the seventh player in league history to pull off the Ross-Hart-Pearson hat trick.
"I haven't won the Stanley Cup yet so ask me after that," Crosby replied during the post-awards news conference when asked if he'd just had the best two weeks of his life. "But this has been a couple of memorable weeks."
Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, a six-time Hart winner, handed the trophy to Crosby.
"To get that from him was obviously a huge honour," said Crosby, who was a first-time finalist for the Hart Trophy. "Everyone knows the history and what he's done for the game."
"The fans love him," said Brodeur of Crosby, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S. "Everybody seems to be on his wagon, and that's well deserved.
"He's going to be like Gretzky in making the NHL a better sport."
Tampa Bay Lightning centre Vincent Lecavalier and Luongo were the other finalists for the Lester B. Pearson Award, named after Canada's 14th prime minister.
"To earn that respect from fellow players, guys you play against every night, it's one of the ultimate compliments you can get," said Crosby. "In a way, it's a family — the whole group of guys who battle for their teams.
"It's a huge honour to get that respect."
Crosby is the youngest player to be a finalist for the Pearson and the youngest recipient since Gretzky won it as a 20-year-old in 1982.
"You always have to come back to a guy like Sidney being a 19-year-old," said Lecavalier. "To do what he did was pretty incredible."
Thursday's other awards:
Vezina Trophy winner: Martin Brodeur
Brodeur didn't go home empty handed, picking up his third Vezina as the NHL's top netminder and first since 2004.
The Montreal native won a league-record 48 games this season, surpassing Bernie Parent's 33-year-old mark. He also led the NHL in shutouts (12) and ranked third in goals-against average (2.18).
As expected, it was a close vote between Brodeur (122) and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo (116).
"I'm hanging in there with the young guy so it's good," said a smiling Brodeur. "I love playing this game and I try to play as hard as I can every game and every year."
Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff was also in the running along with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
Calder Trophy winner: Evgeni Malkin
The Russian sniper led all rookies in goals (33) and points (89) to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a potent 1-2 punch with Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Malkin earned 1,357 points in voting by selected members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, well ahead of Colorado's Paul Stastny (965) and Penguins forward Jordan Staal (565).
Stastny had a 20-game points streak and played a big role in the Avalanche's late-season playoff push, while Staal — younger brother of Carolina forward Eric Staal — led the NHL in shooting percentage.
Norris Trophy winner: Nicklas Lidstrom
A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, the Detroit Red Wings blue-liner edged Anaheim teammates Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to become the first five-time career winner since Ray Bourque.
"It feels a bit unbelievable," said Lidstrom, 37. "Ray was a guy I looked up to coming into the league [in 1991]. He was a great player at both ends of the ice."
Lidstrom, who finished fifth in scoring among NHL defencemen this season with 62 points, totalled 1,217 votes compared to Niedermayer's 1,024. Pronger counted 608.
"He's been recognized a number of times for good reason, because he's a very, very good defenceman," Niedermayer, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, said of Lidstrom. "Smart player, he's got great skills, a good leader."
Frank J. Selke Trophy winner: Rod Brind'Amour
Brind'Amour posted 82 points in 78 games this season but also shone defensively for the Carolina Hurricanes with a plus-7 rating.
"I like to be thought of more of a two-way player, but I'll definitely take this award," Brind'Amour said after being named the NHL's top defensive forward for the 2006-07 season.
Brind'Amour totalled 420 points in voting, narrowly outdistancing Samuel Pahlsson of the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, who had 405. Jay Pandolfo of the New Jersey Devils was third in voting with 311 points.
The first back-to-back Selke winner since Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars (1998-99), Brind'Amour ranked second among NHL centres in faceoff win percentage (59.2) and helped Carolina to the sixth-best penalty kill in the 30-team league.
Lady Byng Trophy winner: Pavel Datsyuk
The slick Detroit Red Wings centre won the most gentlemanly award for the second straight year, earning 38 first-place votes and 705 points to best Martin St. Louis (513) of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Joe Sakic (354) of the Colorado Avalanche.
Remarkably, Datsyuk has yet to reach 100 penalty minutes in his NHL career to date and matched his career high with 87 points this season.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland accepted the trophy on Datsyuk's behalf.
Jack Adams winner: Alain Vigneault
In a close vote, the Vancouver Canucks coach defeated Buffalo Sabres bench boss Lindy Ruff 134-126.
Michel Therrien, who coached a mixture of youngsters and veterans in Pittsburgh, was third with 91 votes.
"I really am surprised," said Vigneault, who guided the Canucks to a 49-26-7 record in his first season behind the Vancouver bench. "The other two were great candidates, especially I thought Michel with the tremendous improvement of the Penguins [105 points compared to 58 in 2005-06]."
He is the second Canucks coach in franchise history to win the honour, joining Pat Quinn (1992), who presented the award to Vigneault.
Bill Masterton Memorial winner: Phil Kessel
The Boston Bruins rookie forward took home the award for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Last December, Kessel underwent surgery for testicular cancer and returned to the Bruins' lineup less than a month later.
Kessel, 19, learned he had cancer shortly before playing in a Dec. 9 game against New Jersey and had surgery three days later to remove his right testicle.
The Bruins' first pick (fifth overall) in the 2006 draft, Kessel finished the season with 29 points in 70 games.With files from the Canadian Press