At an early age Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams experienced success. As a 16-year-old, he began the 1998-99 season playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the Compuware Ambassadors. That season, the Ambassadors would finish atop the NAHL standings and end up winning their 10th Robertson Cup Championship.
Although Williams would only spend a portion of the season with the Ambassadors during that Championship season, his impact was felt in the form of six points (4 goals, 2 assists) in nine NAHL games. Later that season, he was called up to the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), a major junior team that shared the same owner as the Compuware Ambassadors in Peter Karmanos. A year later, Williams would be drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2000 NHL Draft.
Fast forward 15 very successful NHL seasons later and on Friday night, the former NAHL’er was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Williams scored the first goal Friday in a 3-2 double-overtime win against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. He had two goals, including the overtime winner in Game 1, and five assists for seven points that led the series. Williams had nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had five points in three Game 7 wins, and his 14 points in seven career Game 7’s are an NHL record.
Williams won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and twice with the Kings in the past three seasons. In each run he’s played a vital role, but never more so than this spring. “I can’t believe I won that,” Williams said as he sat at the press conference podium with his son Jaxon in his lap. “That will, I don’t think, ever, ever sink in.”
Williams continued… “I don’t do anything flashy out there,” he said. “I’m not the fastest skater. I don’t have the greatest shot. I just try and do the best I can out there with what I have. I feel my smarts and my instincts have gotten me where I am, and my competitiveness.”
Williams is the third former NAHL player in the last four years to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, joining former NAHL’ers Patrick Kane (2013) and Tim Thomas (2011).