The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association announced each chapter’s nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, annually given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
In the past, the award has found its way to a player who came back from a major injury or dealt with personal strife.
In 2013 Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding won it after going through a season following a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. In 2014, New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore won it after taking 2012-13 off be with his wife Katie after she was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer. Katie died in January of 2013 and Dominic Moore set up a foundation in her honor.
In 2015 Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk won the Masterton. The year before he bounced around with three organizations and almost lost his role as an NHL goaltender. The following season he became a Vezina Trophy finalist.
This year’s nominees has a mix of players who’ve dealt with injury, personal issues and many who simply have shown a high level of dedication to the game.
Here is the list of this year’s Masterton nominees as selected by each Professional Hockey Writers’ Association chapter along with a portion of each chapter’s blurb on the player.
Anaheim Ducks: Andrew Cogliano
“No one hustles more than the speedster and the winger is set to become the sixth player to have dressed in 700 consecutive NHL games, without letting any nagging injury or stretch of poor play get in the way of that. He’s a model citizen, a part of the community with his avid support of dog rescue and adoption and a willing conduit to the fans when it comes to discussing the Ducks’ successes and failures.”
Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi
“A Type 1 diabetic, Domi can check his blood-sugar level up to 20 times on game days – including on the bench. He lives with a diabetic alert dog that notifies Domi when his blood sugar is out of range, a resource Domi added to help adapt to life as a pro athlete. This off-ice effort is commendable, but so is Domi’s commitment to being a role model for other diabetics who strive to play – an opportunity Domi embraces locally and when traveling to other NHL cities.”
Boston Bruins: Jonas Gustavsson
“The 31-year-old arrived in camp on a tryout without any guarantees, and beat out two younger candidates for the B’s backup role. Gustavsson remained healthy nearly all season after injuries limited him to seven games in Detroit last season, and posted an 11-7-1 record, 2.63 goals against and .911 save percentage with the Bruins.”
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly
“Each day after the team's workout is complete, O'Reilly stays on the ice and leads many of his teammates in more skills drills. Pylons, sticks and other barriers fill the ice as the pucks fly, often for another 30-45 minutes. Only when O’Reilly is satisfied with the progress do the others call it a day.”
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
“Undrafted into the NHL — nor the Ontario Hockey League, from where the Flames signed him as an unrestricted free-agent — Giordano has become a top-tier blueliner through his relentless work ethic. Moreover, he’s a prime example of professionalism, not just on the ice but off the ice with the media.”
Carolina Hurricanes: Nathan Gerbe
“This season, he opened his home to rookie defenseman Noah Hanifin, another Boston College product. Gerbe is also heavily involved with Defending the Blue Line and other military-support charities. This is Gerbe's second straight Masterton Trophy nomination.”
Chicago Blackhawks: Michal Rozsival
“He dealt with a post-surgery recovery that took up most of his offseason and early part of this regular season. After signing a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in September, Rozsival returned to the lineup on Nov. 14. Rozsival has played in 44 games this season, recording a goal, nine assists and 15:33 of ice time per game.”
“Legally blind in one eye, Carl Soderberg has been the Avalanche’s most consistent center in his first year with the team. He entered Saturday’s game with 47 points, one shy his career high – established with the Boston Bruins in his rookie year of 2012-13. Soderberg, 30, was drafted 49th overall in 2004 but didn't begin NHL career until age 27, after re-learning to play hockey in Sweden after suffering a detached retina from taking stick to the eye at age 22.”
Columbus Blue Jackets: Fedor Tyutin
“Has played 12 seasons in the NHL – the past eight of them in Columbus – playing a style that is often underappreciated. He blocks shots, takes hits to complete outlet passes, and has played through numerous injuries, even in seasons that offer no hope of a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
“Last season fought through hip pain to win the Art Ross Trophy with 87 points (35 goals, 52 assists). He then had to have two separate surgeries on each hip in late April and early May, as the femur was pulled out in traction from the hip socket and the head of the femur had bone spurs shaved off. In addition, he had ligament and tendon work done on each hip. Benn then dedicated his summer to rehabbing the hips so that he would be ready to start the season. He spent most of his time in Texas and was an almost daily visitor to the Stars’ practice facility.”
Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk
“At 37, Pavel Datsyuk remains one of hockey's most thrilling players, able to steal pucks from opponents to create scoring chances out of nowhere. After off-season surgery caused Datsyuk to miss the first six weeks, Datsyuk persevered to regain his form and as of March 23, he led the Wings with .75 points-per-game average. In 57 games, Datsyuk had produced 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points, along with a plus-11 rating.”
Edmonton Oilers: Matt Hendricks
“Matt Hendricks personifies the Masterton Trophy, spending seven NHL season blocking shots, killing penalties, and playing hurt for four different organizations. In Edmonton he is an undisputed leader by example on a young team in search of veterans to follow.”
Florida Panthers: Jaromir Jagr
“Jagr's love of the game is well documented, his work ethic perhaps unrivaled. Hours after the Panthers won a Saturday night game in Sunrise, Jagr sent out a photo through social media. He wasn't on Las Olas or hanging out at the Elbo Room. No, Jagr was in the gym, working out.”
Los Angeles Kings: Vincent Lecavalier
“Vincent Lecavalier, in the twilight of an outstanding career, had become an afterthought while with the Philadelphia Flyers. More often than not he was a healthy scratch, playing in only seven games this season and recording one assist. It seemed a sad way for a gallant player to go out. Lecavalier, 35, is rewriting that ending in Los Angeles. Given a chance and regular ice time after being traded to the Kings in January, Lecavalier has become a valued locker-room leader for a team that figures to contend for the Stanley Cup.”
Minnesota Wild: Nate Prosser
“The long road Prosser took to get to the NHL – and stay here -- is commendable. Behind only captain Mikko Koivu, the defenseman is the second-most tenured player on the Wild. An undrafted free agent out of Colorado College, Prosser has been an in-and-out player for seven seasons, yet shows up daily with a smile on his face and is beloved in the locker room. The Seann William Scott lookalike is a team-first guy, a man of incredible faith and does anything and everything the team asks of him away from the rink.”
Montreal Canadiens: Mike Condon
“He grabbed the number two spot on the team behind Carey Price, and was thrust into the starter role in late November, when Price went down with an injury. Once more, Mike Condon has shown that he can surpass expectations. As usual.”
Nashville Predators: Carter Hutton
“After college, Hutton spent time in the ECHL and AHL before catching Nashville’s eye. Going weeks between starts is not an easy situation, but Hutton accepts that assignment. Hutton stays on-ice long after practice with teammates who need the extra work. Hutton runs a summer hockey school for charity in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario benefitting the Boys and Girls Club. Last year, Hutton and the NHLPA donated goalie gear to every minor hockey association in Thunder Bay.”
New Jersey Devils: Andy Greene
“The 33-year-old defenseman was undrafted, but his dedication and perseverance paid off when he was named the Devils' captain at the start of this season. Greene has one of the longest games-played streaks in the league and in Devils' history, playing in his 300th consecutive gamed on Mar. 17, 2016.”
New York Islanders: Travis Hamonic
“At 26, Hamonic is having one of his best seasons of his six in the NHL, tying a career high with five goals through 64 games while averaging a team-high 24:03 of ice time. That he's done so while handling an undisclosed family situation and a trade request that became public in November is a testament to his own abilities and the high regard he's held in his dressing room, despite the unusual situation he's in.”
New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello
“Zuccarello, 28, suffered a skull fracture, brain contusion, brain bleeding and stroke after being hit in the head with a puck on April 24, 2015. Teammates cried with Zuccarello in the hospital, fearing for his life. He required speech therapy to speak again. But Zuccarello recovered, hosted his second annual charity game/dinner to benefit Right to Play, visited Tanzania (East Africa) in August to see the impact, and resumed an improbable career for a right wing generously listed at 5-7, 179 pounds.”
Ottawa Senators: Zack Smith
“Last year, Smith missed nearly four months with a devastating wrist injury that many thought would end his season. He was able to play at the end of the season and that gave him enough of a confidence boost to know he’d be ready for this year. A third-round pick he’s had to battle the odds though his career and this season his determination has never been more noticeable.”
Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere
Masterton file: “People around the league still have trouble saying the rookie defenseman’s name. Opposing coaches have settled upon calling the game-changer by his nickname: ‘The Ghost.’ Shayne Gostisbehere, one of the first few prospects born and bred in South Florida, has breathed life into the Flyers’ season. The 22-year-old’s impact is even more impressive considering he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Pascal Dupuis
“From the day he was injured to the day he retired, Dupuis tried to comeback from no fewer than a couple of injuries and at least three blood clots. At the end, he was not taking medication (blood thinners) on game days, just because he hated the idea of not going out on his terms. So he won’t, even though he had to stop playing. Everyday, members of the Penguins organization, see a beloved former player who embodies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication. Pascal Dupuis is still giving what he can to hockey, even if having to do it this way hurts.”
St. Louis Blues: Brian Elliott
“He joined the Blues in 2011 after not being qualified by the Colorado Avalanche, agreeing to a two-way contract worth $600,000. In the last five seasons, Elliott has established himself as a legitimate No. 1 goalie, compiling a record of 100-45-16, including a franchise record 24 shutouts. Despite his success, Elliott has been overlooked for the Blues' starting goalie assignment in the playoffs, taking a backseat to Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller and Jake Allen.”
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton
“At age 36, Joe Thornton continues top-10 point production and is remarkably durable while displaying a passion and enjoyment on a nightly basis that can't be measured with stats. What can -- 17 goals (most since age 32) and 70 points through 73 games -- fits in with his output during 11 seasons in San Jose. Thornton averaged 1.06 points per game (875 in 826 games) as a Shark while missing only nine games since acquired from Boston in 2005.”
Tampa Bay Lightning: Anton Stralman
“With a belief in himself, Stralman became a top-four, shutdown defenseman with the Rangers, helping leading New York to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. After signing with the Lightning to start the 2014-15 season, Stralman has turned in to as solid of a two-way, top-four defenseman in the league, finishing in the top 15 for Norris Trophy voting last season in helping lead the Lightning to the Final.”
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer
“This could be called a typical year in Reimer’s six seasons with the Leafs - a bad team in front of him and a rival goalie challenging his ice time. But he put in another long summer of prep work and won the lion’s share of playing time, all the while expressing constant support for his rivals in the crease and the young Leaf roster that was hovering near the bottom of the standings at the time of his trade to San Jose. He was also unfailing in his obligations to the media in the league’s largest Canadian market.”
Vancouver Canucks: Dan Hamhuis
“Dan Hamhuis has meant everything for a struggling team in transition. He's a voice of reason in the room, a mentor to young player and effective on the ice despite a horrific injury that could have been career threatening. He embodies the criteria for the Masterton because his game is a good as it has ever been, he has overcome physical and mental obstacles from his injury and remains as active in the charitable community as he is on the ice.”
Washington Capitals: Dmitry Orlov
“During the 2011 World Championships, while representing his native Russia, Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov suffered a fracture of his left wrist that required reconstructive surgery. Later that summer Orlov developed an infection, requiring a second surgery. As a result, Orlov was unable to grip a hockey stick for several months and there were concerns within the Capitals organization that he may never be able to play at the NHL level. Orlov missed the entire 2014-15 season because of the injury, dedicating the entire season to strengthening the muscles in his hand and wrist.”
Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien
“In the last two seasons, he has returned to play defence, the position he prefers, and will be one of the Jets’ top four blueliners for the foreseeable future after signing a five-year contract extension in February. Byfuglien, 31, has played more than 400 games for the Jets/Thrashers franchise, has been named to play in the NHL all-star game four times and was recently chosen as a member of Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.”
1. Mats Zuccarello
The diminutive Norwegian initially had to overcome his size to make the NHL. After last season he had to come back from a devastating medical issue to co-lead the Rangers in points this season. He plays with a joy and tenacity unlike many others in the NHL.
2. Jaromir Jagr
It’s hard to find someone more dedicated than Jagr. He’s still going strong at the age of 44 and has continued his legendary training methods. He also seems to be having more fun than ever this season with jokes on Twitter and embracing his former hair style that made him famous in the 1990s.
3. Pascal Dupuis
Dupuis could easily have called it quits years ago when devastating, life-altering medical problems popped up. But he continued to try to play even into his late-30s.
4. Mike Condon
Condon’s path to the NHL included the Houston Aeros, Ontario Reign, Wheeling Nailers and Hamilton Bulldogs. He was finally thrust into an unexpected starting role this year in place of the injured Price. It hasn’t been a straight shot to the league for Condon, but he made it and looks to stick around for a while.
5. Vincent Lecavalier
After spending parts of the last two seasons as a healthy scratch in Philly, Lecavalier jumped into the Kings' lineup after a mid-season trade and showed no signs of rust, playing a top-six role almost immediately.
What do you think of the Masterton list? Give us your top five in the comments section!
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