- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

PITTSBURGH - In a room full of polished NHL dignitaries like Mark Messier, Mats Sundin, Trevor Linden and Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Ovechkin provided a little dash of youth yesterday.

While those veterans of the spotlight authored composed speeches while presenting and accepting awards at the NHL awards luncheon, Ovechkin appeared uncharacteristically nervous when he spoke about winning the Art Ross and Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies.

Ovechkin still produced the highlight of the luncheon. After he took a peek at the two trophies that soon will bear his name, he snapped a couple of pictures of them with his cell phone.

“Well, you know, it was a good year, but it was not my best year,” Ovechkin said. “When I have the Stanley Cup, I say it’s my best year. I’m happy I take this cup [the Art Ross trophy], but the biggest cup is not in my hands.”

“Soon, probably,” he added with a smile.

This was the first day in what could be a productive offseason in the hardware collection department for Ovechkin. After leading the league with 65 goals and 112 points - and several other categories like game-winning goals (11), power-play goals (22) and shots (446) - Ovechkin is the favorite to win both league MVP honors.

He is a finalist, along with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, for both awards, which will be handed out June 12 in Toronto.

Ovechkin is the second player to win both the Ross and Richard trophies (the Richard was first awarded in 1998-99) and he’s the first Russian to lead the league in points. Russians Malkin (106 points) and Ilya Kovalchuk (52 goals) finished second to him both categories.

Combine the individual excellence with Russia’s recent victory in the world championships - something Ovechkin and Caps teammates Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov played a large part in - and this is a great time for hockey in that country.

“Russia right now feel pretty good,” Ovechkin said.

Before the ceremony yesterday Ovechkin told reporters on a conference call he knows “for sure” Fedorov, a pending unrestricted free agent, wants to remain with the Caps next season.

“I know [Fedorov] wants to stay in Washington. I know for sure,” Ovechkin said. “It’s not my job to say about players who should be here or not. That is up to [general manager] George [McPhee].”

Fedorov, who turns 39 in December, said after the Caps acquired him from Columbus he would consider all of his options after the season ended - including retirement or playing in Russia next year. Playing with the youthful Caps seemed to revive Fedorov, and he showed glimpses of the superstar player who dominated the league in the 1990s.

Ovechkin didn’t want to elaborate on his discussions with Fedorov, but the two will go on vacation together sometime later in the summer. As for where …

“We don’t know yet,” Ovechkin said with a sheepish grin.

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