Chicago Wolves captain Pat Cannone had a few minutes to chat between Thursday morning’s practice and the team’s afternoon flight to Des Moines for Friday’s game against the Iowa Wild.
As Cannone started to talk about his time at the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic, fellow All-Star Andre Benoit walked past.
“Best player ever,” Benoit said. “Now the whole league knows.”
“Yeah, it’s bad, right?” Cannone replied. “I was trying to fly under the radar.”
While both statements were made light-heartedly, there’s no question Cannone can’t hide any more. Not after the way he has played all season.
Already an above-average player – Cannone produced 30 goals, 51 assists and a +35 plus/minus rating over the last two seasons with the Wolves – he has taken it to another level this year.
He opened the season with a career-best 10-game point streak. He delivered an eight-game point streak in January, which featured two hat tricks capped with game-winning overtime goals in a 10-day span. He won the AHL’s Player of the Week honor on Jan. 18.
Then, over the weekend at the All-Star Classic in Syracuse, N.Y., the first-time All-Star gave the whole league and a national television audience a taste of his 2015-16 excellence. He won the Accuracy Shooting contest during Sunday night’s skills competition, then stacked up 3 goals and a game-winning shootout goal to earn the Most Valuable Player award and lead the Central Division team to the title during Monday night’s All-Star Challenge.
Cannone, as is his nature, nudged the spotlight away from himself and toward the experience.
“It was fun for us,” Cannone said. “It was fun for the fans. It was a real good time. The highlight for me was just meeting all the guys around the league – the guys you battle with on a nightly basis. It was cool to meet everybody on a personal level.”
Cannone grew up on Long Island, so he and his wife, Natalie, were joined in Syracuse by his parents. “They haven’t seen me play that much in person this year, so it was really special,” Cannone said. “We really enjoyed our time together for three days.”
Benoit, meanwhile, turned his first AHL All-Star Game into a family reunion. “My parents,” he said. “My wife’s parents. Her sister. Her grandparents. Aunt and uncle. That was definitely fun to see everybody there. And I definitely enjoyed the All-Star Game.”
Benoit produced 1 goal and 2 assists to help the Central Division win the title. Then he won Dad points by taking his daughters on an overnight trip to Key Lime Cove to cap the All-Star Break.
But Benoit was still thinking Thursday about Cannone’s All-Star outburst.
“He had an unbelievable weekend,” Benoit said. “He’s been hot this last little bit. And he had a great showing in the All-Star Game. Good for him. He’s a great player. He’s getting some recognition and it’s nice to see.”