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KRONWALL NAMED AHL’S OUTSTANDING DEFENSEMAN

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Niklas Kronwall on Tuesday was named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the American Hockey League’s outstanding defenseman for the 2004-05 season, as voted by AHL players and members of the media in each of the league's 28 cities.

Kronwall, the first European-born player to win the award, currently leads the Griffins in scoring and is tied for second among AHL defensemen with 50 points (12-38—50) in 73 games. His team-leading 38 assists are tied for third among league blueliners, and his point and assist totals have obliterated the previous records for a Grand Rapids defenseman.

In position to become the first defenseman in the Griffins’ nine seasons to lead the team in either points or assists, Kronwall has been a key cog for a Grand Rapids defense that is tied for sixth in the AHL in goals allowed per game (2.42).

The 24-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden, was named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team last week and earned a starting nod in the 2005 Dodge AHL All-Star Classic. He had appeared in every Griffins game this season until last week, when he missed three contests due to injury.

“Niklas is a big part of our team, and he’s probably the top all-around defenseman in the league,” said Griffins GM Bob McNamara. “He has an ability to provide both offense and solid defense, and if you’ve had the chance to see him play, you see that, physically, he plays a lot bigger than he actually is. He goes into the corners, he gets his nose dirty, and he’s one of the best open-ice hitters in the league.

“He’s the complete package, and we’re excited he’s been given this honor. It’s well deserved. He plays hard every night, he’s a competitor, and he’s going to have a long and successful career in the National Hockey League.”

The Detroit Red Wings’ first choice (29th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Kronwall made his North American debut with the Griffins last season, contributing 13 points (2-11—13) in 25 games. Beginning with his NHL debut with the Red Wings on Dec. 10, 2003, he appeared in 20 consecutive games for Detroit, totaling five points (1-4—5). However, he sustained a season-ending broken leg during warm-up on Jan. 22, 2004 at Los Angeles, causing him to miss the 2004 Pepsi AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids.

The Shore Award, first presented by the AHL in 1959, honors the late Eddie Shore, a Hockey Hall of Famer widely regarded as one of hockey's greatest defensemen. Shore, a four-time winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, won a total of five Calder Cups, including two as the general manager of the Buffalo Bisons and three as the longtime owner of the Springfield Indians.

Previous winners of the Shore Award include Steve Kraftcheck (1959), Al Arbour (1965), Noel Price (1970, '72, '76), Marshall Johnston (1971), Terry Murray (1978, '79), Brad Shaw (1987), Dave Fenyves (1988, '89) Eric Weinrich (1990), Greg Hawgood (1992), Darren Rumble (1997), Brad Tiley (2000), John Slaney (2001, '02) and Curtis Murphy (2003, '04).

Kronwall becomes the first Griffin to be honored with an AHL postseason award since 2003, when Marc Lamothe was named the league’s outstanding goaltender (Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award) and teamed with Joey MacDonald to earn the outstanding team goaltending honor (Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award).


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