Vernon Vipers’ assistant coach Kevin Pedersen enjoys a photo opp with Calder Trophy (top rookie) winner Matt Barzal of the New York Islanders at the NHL awards Wednesday night in Las Vegas. (Photo Submitted)

Viper coach rolls with Calder Trophy winner

Pedersen special guest of Matt Barzal at NHL awards in Vegas

Vernon Vipers’ assistant coach Kevin Pedersen hung out with a major hockey star Wednesday night on the Las Vegas strip.

Pedersen was a special guest of New York Islanders’ centre Matt Barzal at the NHL awards ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Barzal, who won the Calder Trophy as top rookie, was coached by Pedersen in Bantam hockey at Burnaby Winter Club.

“The atmosphere down here is nuts; it’s absolutely crazy,” said Pedersen, moments after the ceremony. “Everybody is all over (Connor) McDavid.”

When asked where the after-party was, Pedersen joked: “Wherever Matt takes me.”

Barzal received the Calder Trophy from Roberto Luongo and Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, who helped honour the shooting victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Members of the school’s boys ice hockey team took the stage to thank the NHL and the Panthers for their support and help hand out the Calder Trophy.

Barzal led all rookies with 85 points (22 goals). He’s the seventh rookie in NHL history with at least 20 goals and 60 assists in one season, the first since Sidney Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005-06. He is the fifth player in Islander history to win the Calder and first since defenceman Bryan Berard in 1996-97. He defeated finalists Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes

“I told you he was going to win,” laughed Pedersen.

Barzal, who starred for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western League for four years, was the runaway winner with 160 first-place votes. Boeser, whose season was cut short due to a back injury, was the only other player with multiple first-place votes with two. Keller and Yanni Gourde of the Tampa Bay Lightning each had one.

Barzal, 21, began his Junior hockey career with his hometown Coquitlam Express of the B.C. Hockey League, earning two assists in six games as a call-up from the Major Midget Vancouver NE Chiefs, in the 2012-13 season. He was taken 16th overall by New York in the 2015 NHL entry draft.

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