2015 Masterton Nominees

A full rundown of the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Award nominees

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication” — traits to which almost everyone aspires.

Here are the 2015 nominees as named by the individual PHWA Chapters.

Anaheim: Andrew Cogliano

Showing up for work each and every day is expected and most often not celebrated. You do your job for that day and move on to the next. It is that way for all professions.

The challenge to do just that rises significantly when your profession is that of a hockey player and you’re not only competing at the highest of levels while dealing with opponents whose very job is to beat you literally and figuratively.

Andrew Cogliano has managed to do that ever since he made the Edmonton Oilers opening-day lineup in 2007. Cogliano, 27, moved on to the Anaheim Ducks for the 2011-12 season but his work ethic and dedication to the game hasn’t wavered one bit.

The speedy forward has adapted his game into that of a valuable, versatile forward that is not only a dogged penalty killer who manages to come up with big momentum-turning goals for one of the NHL’s elite teams.

Teammates and coaches laud his determination and year-round commitment to fitness. He’d be the first to say that good fortune has played a role with appearing in 619 consecutive games but Cogliano has always been willing to play through the bumps and bruises and the occasional illnesses.

And when it comes to dissecting his teams successes and failures, the Toronto native has always been able to do both unfailingly. The NHL’s current iron man represents the qualities that define the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and it is why he is the nominee by the Anaheim chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Arizona: Shane Doan

A bout of Rocky Mountain spotted fever cost Coyotes captain Shane Doan 12 games last season, but it wasn’t until this season that the severity of that health scare was revealed.

Doan was almost immovable while recovering from the bacterial infection, which caused severe headaches, fever and muscle aches. At one point, he spent 18 hours in the hospital undergoing tests including a spinal tap. Even the U.S. government was monitoring the case to see if this was the start of an outbreak in Arizona.

Disappointed that his performance upon his return didn’t help the Coyotes reach the playoffs, Doan began his off-season training earlier than usual and focused on improving his cardio. He’s missed only two games this season and ranks third in points in a season that has, once again, tested Doan’s perseverance — this time because of the teams decision to rebuild.

But amid that frustration, the 38-year-old continues to be the epitome of sportsmanship and dedication.

Boston: Patrice Bergeron

Patrice Bergeron personifies dedication to the game of hockey. The two-time Selke Trophy winner is a Stanley Cup champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Junior champ, and has become the heart and soul leader of the Bruins on and off the ice. He routinely plays with maximum effort, plays hurt and sets the textbook example for his teammates, and that’s never been more evident than in a disappointing 2014-15 season. With David Krejci and Zdeno Chara in and out of the lineup and many teammates underachieving, Bergeron was Boston’s best player most nights while always emptying the effort tank. Bergeron’s also a team-leader in community involvement: long ago he established the Patrice’s Pals program supplying B’s tickets and other VIP benefits to local charities, and this season took over the Cuts for a Cause charity event. For the first time ever each member of the Bruins participated, raising a record $130,000 for pediatric cancer care for the Bruins Foundation and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

Buffalo: Mike Weber

Mike Weber has averaged more minutes this season than any of his career and it’s a daunting task while playing for the NHL’s worst team. But he’s a mentor in the locker room to younger teammates such as Ramsus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, a respected alternate captain, and a spokesman in tough times — such as when he eloquently represented the players in speaking on the death of former teammate Steve Montador. Weber is the longest-running member of the organization, having been drafted in 2006 and making his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season. Even though he was a second-round pick, he had to battle to earn his spot, playing three full seasons in the AHL after making his NHL debut, before finally earning a regular role in 2010. He is also at the forefront of the one of teams chief game night community initiatives, donating tickets to military personnel as part of the “Tickets for Troops” program.

Calgary: Kris Russell

Kris Russell was acquired by the Flames shortly after going unclaimed through waivers in the summer 2013, and has flourished in the Stampede City.

A product of Caroline, Alberta, he has responded with consecutive seasons setting a high for points, but that’s only part of what the 27-year-old defenseman, and alternate captain, has provided.

Pound-for-pound, Russell is listed as being 5-foot-10, 173-pound he may be one of the toughest defensemen you’ll find in the NHL, and displays that attribute not only by his efforts in the corners and in front of the net battling opponents, but also blocking shots.

The NHL leader in that category, he set a league record with 15 blocks during a win over the Boston Bruins in early March.

After the Flames lost captain Mark Giordano to a season-ending biceps injury, Russell’s value showed even more, logging more ice time than usual while elevating his game at both ends of the rink.

Carolina: Nathan Gerbe

Carolina Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe was always told he was too little to play hockey. A few years ago the Buffalo Sabres told him they didn’t want him to play hockey for them anymore, buying out his contract. At one point, Gerbe had such severe back issues that he said his wife had to dress him, and he wondered if his playing career might be over.

But Gerbe recovered, signed with the Canes, won a new contract with the team after last season and has been a lineup regular. The 5-foot-5 winger played 81 games last season and has missed just four games this season.

Off the ice, Gerbe’s brother-in-law died in a traffic accident in Michigan just before his first training camp with the Hurricanes. He left to be with his sister and has become a father figure for her children. He also is involved with military-support organizations like Defending the Blue Line.

Chicago: Scott Darling

The Chicago chapter of the PHWA is nominating goaltender Scott Darling for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Darling took a long, hard road to the NHL on and off the ice — the Blackhawks are his 12th team in the last five seasons. On the ice, he played in the Southern Professional Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League — he was cut by the Las Vegas Ramblers while in that league — and American Hockey League before signing with the Blackhawks last summer. Off the ice, Darling battled an addiction to alcohol; he took his last drink in the summer of 2011.

Darling went from an unknown goalie at training camp to the Blackhawks backup. When Corey Crawford was injured in late 2014 Darling took the road games, winning three of four. He is 7-3-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and .938 save percentage; he also got his first NHL shutout on March 18, a 1-0 decision over the New York Rangers. Darling signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks on Feb. 22.

Colorado: Alex Tanguay

Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay missed all but 16 games in the 2013-14 NHL season because of hip and knee injuries, ultimately having hip surgery after a failed midseason comeback. At age 34, his career was in question in the first year of his third stint with Colorado. And then early in 2015-16, he was struck in the face with the puck, off a shot by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, breaking his jaw and missing several games. But Tanguay, now 35, is now enjoying one of his finest individual seasons of his career, scoring 20 goals for the eighth time and becoming the 299th player to reach 1,000 NHL regular-season games on March 4. Tanguay is tied for second among the Avalanche in goals (22) and fourth in points (52). He leads the Avalanche in shooting accuracy at 22 percent. Tanguay is one of the Avs best spokesmen in good times and bad, and always willing to participate in community events.

Columbus: Nick Foligno

Nick Foligno has shown tremendous perseverance in recent months, both regarding the health of his infant daughter and in pushing his career to new heights in 2014-15.

Foligno’s daughter, Milana, was born with a congenital heart defect that required emergency surgery early in the 2013-14 season. He juggled these incredible health scares and his responsibilities to the club last season and played a significant role in the Blue Jackets making the playoffs for only the second time. He scored a game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 that stands, for many fans, as the greatest moment in this franchise’s history.

This season, with the health of his daughter stabilized, Foligno has had a breakout season, setting career highs in goals (26), assists (39), points (65), plus-minus (+11), shots on goal (166), power play goals (10), power play assists (15) and ice time (18:59), all the while playing all three forward positions, including center for the first time in the NHL.

This breakout season reached its zenith in January, when Foligno was a first-time All-Star and one of the captain’s for the game, held in Columbus’ Nationwide Arena. On New Year’s Eve this season he played in his 500th game.

Foligno has become an advocate for the procedure performed on his daughter — it is deemed experimental, and has not yet been granted government approval for widespread usage — and is involved in numerous Blue Jackets’ charity endeavors, especially those that aid children.

This is the second straight year Foligno has been the Columbus chapters nominee, but he is most certainly deserving.

Dallas: Patrick Eaves

The Dallas Chapter of the PHWA is nominating Patrick Eaves as the Stars’ candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for the 2014-15 season.

Eaves has battled back from several injuries and continues to be an integral part of the Dallas lineup. Playing in 41 games, he has tallied 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) and is plus-8 while logging 13:21 in ice time. Eaves missed three games in November with a lower body injury, 21 games in December and January with a broken foot, and seven games in February with a concussion.

Eaves also missed almost a year and a half with a broken jaw and concussion as a member of the Detroit Red Wings from 2011-13. He was the Red Wings nominee for the Masterton Trophy after the 2012-13 season when he battled back to get in the lineup.

The 30-year-old winger is on his fifth NHL team and continues to work hard to overcome every setback, all the while being one of the most positive people in the organization. Eaves has displayed the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey that are the tenets of the Masterton Trophy.

Detroit: Pavel Datsyuk

The Detroit PHWA chapter nominates Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. At age 36, Datsyuk remains hockey’s best two-way forward and one of the most thrilling players to watch because of the way he can steal the puck off an opponent and dangle like no one else. He is the Wings’ only point-per-game player (58 points after 57 games, with a team-best plus-11). As of March 20, he was the only player among the top 30 NHL scorers who was there having played fewer than 60 games. Datsyuk played a key role in helping the Wings win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2002, and a decade-plus later, his continued dominance demonstrates his passionate dedication.

Edmonton: Matt Hendricks

Matt Hendricks epitomizes consistency and hard work for the Edmonton Oilers, continuing to block shots, drop his gloves and lead the way despite the fact the Oilers playoff hopes have been dormant since December.

The 33-year-old Blaine, MN native has carved out an NHL living the hard way, battling off the fourth line for four different teams. He’s played over 400 games and, on a young Oilers team desperate for some veteran leadership, it’s no coincidence that Hendricks dressing room stall is situated in the corner right next to Nail Yakupov and two down from Taylor Hall.

Hendricks ranks second among Oilers forwards in blocked shots, and leads the entire team with 205 hits (as of March 26). Hendricks is the Edmonton Chapter of the PHWAs nominee for the 2014-15 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Florida: Tomas Kopecky

Tomas Kopecky was struggling to score and going through one of the toughest seasons of his 10 years in the NHL with the Florida Panthers in 2014.

He hoped a trip to Sochi to play with his Slovakian national team would help his game when he came back to South Florida.

It didn’t.

Kopecky was taken out on an elbow to the head from Slovenia’s Sabahudin Kovacevic; the hit was so brutal, Kovacevic was suspended.

Kopecky eventually returned to Florida but the symptoms from the severe concussion remained with him. He was unable to do any physical exertion for months and he lost 20 pounds off an already slender frame. When he got the all clear from doctors to start working out, he only had this season in mind.

“I started preparing for this season basically in April,” said Kopecky, who scored four goals in 49 games with Florida in 2013-14 before Sochi.

“Everyone knows what happened last year was unacceptable. For me, personally, I took it to heart.”

Kopecky returned to the Panthers this year and has been a key part of Florida’s improved fourth-line play and his penalty killing has been something coach Gerard Gallant has come to rely on.

“I like the guy, he’s in a perfect role here and does a good job,” Gallant said. “We could play him higher in the lineup some nights but I like the chemistry I see.”

Los Angeles: Robyn Regehr

The LA chapter Masterton nominee is Robyn Regehr.

Regehr is an old-school, stay-at-home defenseman who has been the glue of the Kings’ defense corps in many ways this season while Slava Voynov has served a league-imposed suspension and Alec Martinez missed time because of a concussion. The oldest player on the team at 35, Regehr has been poised under pressure and remains a physical force, averaging more than three hits per game and more than 20 minutes’ ice time per game. Whether paired with the adventurous Drew Doughty or another offense-minded defenseman, Regehr has persevered through his own injuries to lead by example.

Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk

On April 2, Dubnyk started his 35th consecutive game for the Wild and 36th in a row in the 2014-15 season — the most consecutive starts in the NHL since 2009. It has been an extraordinary bounceback season for the 28-year-old goalie. Run out of Edmonton, two poorly played games in Nashville and a stint in the minors for the Montreal. After signing a one-year deal with Arizona just to stay in the NHL, Dubnyk resurrected his career, reinvented himself and was dealt to Minnesota in January, his fifth team in one year. Turning a 12th-place dead-in-the-water team into a playoff team, Dubnyk has single-handedly saved the Wilds season with a remarkable two-plus months of hockey. The Wild hasn’t lost two consecutive regulation games under Dubnyk, hasn’t lost by more than a goal since Jan. 19, has a plus-47 goal differential and is riding a franchise-record 10-game road winning streak. He is 26-6-1 in 34 consecutive starts with the Wild through April 1 with a 1.70 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. In 34 starts, he has allowed 57 goals (two goals or fewer in 26 games). In the 14 games prior to his arrival, the Wild allowed 58. Overall, he ranks second in the NHL with a 2.05 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Dubnyk talks passionately about how torturous a season last year was for him and the hard work and determination it was to get to this point where he has become the arguably NHL’s biggest surprise and feel-good story this season.

Montreal: Andrei Markov

It was all a bit surprising when the Montreal Canadiens, just a few weeks removed from a late playoff push, decided to keep veteran Andrei Markov around. Montreal wanted to go young at the blue line, but more importantly, why would they choose to keep a veteran who’s skills appeared to be rapidly declining? But Montreal decided that Markov was well worth three more years, and the Russian D-man, at age 36, answered with his best season in years. As of March 27th, Markov had taken part in every single game this year, logging more than 25 minutes of ice time on most nights, and was on his way to the best plus/minus ratio of his 14-year career. Leaving doubters and naysayers in the dust, Markov made sure the hockey world understood he wasn’t done just quite yet.

Nashville: Pekka Rinne

To scout Pekka Rinne, the Predators had to show up early to Karpat games. Rinne was the backup, so they had to make their observations based on warmups. Nashville took him with the 258th overall pick in 2004.

He didn’t become an NHL starter until he was 27, but has now surpassed 200 wins. He holds the franchise records for wins and shutouts.

Following an offseason hip surgery in 2013, Rinne developed an E. Coli infection in that same hip in October 2013, sidelining him for 51 games. He returned for the final month of the season and played for Finland at the 2014 World Championships, where he was named MVP. Rinne is active in Best Buddies of Tennessee, which works with individuals who have developmental disabilities. Rinne and team captain Shea Weber have purchased suites to all home games, where they host pediatric cancer patients and their families.

New Jersey: Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo was a Masterton nominee while playing for the Nashville Predators, an acknowledgment of his battle to overcome alcoholism. Since then, Tootoo has faced and overcome challenges that make him an even more deserving nominee for the New Jersey Devils. A minor leaguer for most of last season, Tootoo’s career reached a potential end at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. He was invited to training camp by the Devils on a tryout contract, along with several other veterans such as Scott Gomez. The odds of the Devils keeping more than one tryout were overwhelming, but Tootoo was so impressive that he won a contract in training camp and made Gomez wait until December. Tootoo became a vocal dressing room leader for the Devils and made a significant impact on the ice. He has been, at various points, the Devils’ first-line right winger and will almost certainly get a contract offer to return in 2015-16. Tootoo wrote a best-selling book about his life and battle with alcoholism. He has remained sober has been an inspiration to others with his dedication and perseverance.

New York Islanders: Lubomir Visnovsky

The 38-year-old defenseman played only 24 games in 2013-14 due to concussion symptoms and has played through a recurring back issue this season, his 15th in the NHL, to still have an impact on the Islanders. His four goals and 11 assists in 46 games give Visnovsky 490 career points, fifth among active defensemen. Should the Islanders make the postseason, it will be Visnovsky’s fifth trip to the playoffs in his 15 seasons and second with the Isles since he arrived via trade prior to the 2012-13 season.

New York Rangers: Marc Staal

Marc Staal, who has persevered through two concussions and a serious eye injury that compromised his vision and threatened his career, is the NY Rangers’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy. The 28-year-old defenseman, third in seniority on the Rangers after joining the team for the start of the 2007-08 season, personifies the qualities embodied in this award. An alternate captain, Staal is selfless on and off the ice, and dedicated to his career, his team and his teammates. After missing the first half of the 2011-12 season with post-concussion symptoms and the second half of the 2012-13 season after taking a puck in the eye, Staal has been a staple as a shutdown, match-up defenseman for coach Alain Vigneault.

Ottawa: Andrew Hammond

In February and March, Andrew Hammond went from being a little known minor league goaltender into the best story in the NHL, leading the Ottawa Senators back into the playoff race by going 14-1-1 in his first 16 NHL starts.

Hammond’s story is all about dedication and perseverance.

Almost 10 years ago, Hammond’s hockey career appeared over before it started. At 18, Hammond had quit hockey after being cut from his junior A team in B.C. After attending college for three weeks, he received a call from a former Tier II junior coach. He opted to take a step back to continue to pursue his hockey dreams, re-discovering his love for hockey.

From there, he won a pair of Canadian national junior A titles, receiving a scholarship to Bowling Green University.

Success was limited. Hammond lost his first 14 collegiate games and didn’t experience a winning season in four years of college, but played well enough to earn a professional contract from the Senators.

Despite a slow start to the 2014-15 season with the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton, Hammond stayed committed to his dream of playing in the NHL.

When it arrived, he didn’t look back, failing to allow more than two goals in his first 12 NHL starts, tying Frank Brimsek’s 76-year-old record.

Philadelphia: Nick Schultz

Catch Nick Schultz in the Flyers’ dressing room and he’s likely to be wearing a black, flat-brimmed hat tucked low over his eyes. It is not a look for intimidation, but one he jokes allows him to fit with a younger team. It also conveniently hides his receding hairline, though he didn’t mention that part.

Schultz, 32, has played 214 more NHL games than any player on the Flyers’ roster save Vinny Lecavalier. He arrived in Philadelphia in September without another single game guaranteed, signed on July 2 as a spare defenseman. Once the NHL recognizes you as a spare part, it’s hard to be seen as anything other than that. Schultz’s teammate in Edmonton, Devan Dubnyk, found the same to be true.

Even after Kimmo Timonen was diagnosed with blood clots in August, Michael Del Zotto was signed the same day and immediately jumped Schultz on the depth chart — leaving him as a healthy scratch on Opening Night with his new team. It was the familiar, sinking feeling he experience in Edmonton and Columbus last season.

Braydon Coburn just so happened to fracture his foot that night, opening up room on a roster that limited extra body Hal Gill to just six games in that same role the previous season. Schultz has skated in 74 of the last 75 games, resurrecting a career that once seemed to be on its last leg last summer, playing some of his best hockey in years along the way.

Flyers coach Craig Berube credits Schultz with calming down the team’s defense corps. He made just about every partner he played with this season better. Schultz also broke a 125-game goalless drought, nearly matching career-high numbers as a 32-year-old that were set six years ago in Minnesota.

As a player who was not resigned to letting his career slip away like so many others, Schultz is an ideal candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He was awarded a two-year, $4.5 million extension on Feb. 18 for taking a risk and moving his four, six and eight-year-old children to the East Coast for the first time for one last stab at the best league in the world. In a young man’s league, he found out he was still more than capable.

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang possesses a rare dedication to hockey, something that has carried him through a number of life-altering health traumas and has prompted the Pittsburgh chapter of the PHWA to again nominate him for the Masterton Trophy.

During the past 15 months, Letang has suffered a stroke and two concussions. Through it all, Letang arguably did his finest NHL work during the 2014-15 season.

Even though the Penguins are protective of Letang because of his past brain injuries, the defenseman was among the top 10 in NHL ice time during this past season. Long a gym rat, Letang’s dedication to the sport was never on more display.

Letang is known for remaining on the ice for excessive chunks of time following practice. This season saw Penguins coach Mike Johnston demand Letang leave the ice on numerous occasions, as the coach was worried Letang was over-doing it.

Letang, though, only knows one speed and, despite enduring more bad luck than most, continues to showcase a passion for hockey that is nearly unparalleled.

San Jose: Scott Hannan

A lot of people would have bet against Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan staying in the NHL for 1,000 games when the league took a lot of clutching and grabbing out of the game in favor of speed before resuming play after the 2004-05 lockout.

But Hannan made the adjustment, persevered and passed that milestone in this, his 16th season. And so Hannan is the nominee from the San Jose chapter of the PHWA for the 2015 Masterton Trophy.

“He was one of the top shutdown players of that time and played on the World Cup because of it,” teammate Patrick Marleau said when Hannan played in his 1,000th game last October. “He did well in that era and now he’s doing well in this era.”

Hannan played his first 511 games as a Shark before signing with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent in 2007. After stints in Washington, Calgary and Nashville as well, he was re-acquired at the 2013 trade deadline.

St. Louis: Brian Elliott

The St. Louis Chapter of the PHWA has selected Brian Elliott as its nomination for the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Elliott, 29, has demonstrated extreme perseverance in the sport, which is a major criteria for the award.

The Colorado Avalanche did not make Elliott a qualifying offer in 2011. With his options limited and future in question, he accepted to a two-way contract with the Blues paying him $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the American Hockey League.

In 2011-12, Elliott won a battle with Ben Bishop for the backup job and suited up in St. Louis alongside Jaroslav Halak. That season, Elliott led the NHL with a 1.56 goals-against average and a .940 save-percentage and shared the Jennings Trophy with Halak.

In three seasons in St. Louis prior to this year, Elliott put together a record of 55-24-7 with a 1.86 GAA and a .927 save-percentage. But despite his impressive numbers, he has always been viewed as the backup, first behind Halak and then Ryan Miller last year when the Blues made the Halak-for-Miller trade with Buffalo.

This past offseason, the club finally handed the reins to Elliott, signing him to a three-year, $7.5 million contract extension and named him their No. 1 netminder, a role that took him six full season in the NHL to achieve.

Given the opportunity, Elliott responded with his second All-Star selection. He is 24-13-3 with a 2.18 GAA and .920 save-percentage. He has five shutouts this year and his fifth was No. 21 with the Blues, surpassing Halak as the franchise’s all-time shutout leader.

Tampa Bay: Tyler Johnson

Undrafted and viewed as undersized by many NHL scouts, Tyler Johnson has turned himself into a viable top-six forward for the Lightning, taking the route through the minor leagues.

In his two full seasons with the Lightning, Johnson earned a nod as a finalist for the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and was named an All-Star in his second year. After all those early years of scouts telling him that his size would not translate to the NHL level, Johnson set out to prove them wrong by dedicating himself to learning to play a 200-foot game while not sacrificing his offensive skills. The 5-foot-8 center from Spokane, Washington, is a regular on both the power play as well as the penalty kill and has often been given the task of taking on the opposing teams’ top offensive lines. After posing a plus-23 rating as rookie and setting a franchise rookie record with 24 goals, Johnson has surged in his sophomore campaign, surpassing his rookie offensive totals while being among the league leaders in plus/minus throughout the season, and is the only undrafted player to sit in the top 15 leaders in points heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Toronto: Stephane Robidas

There were doubts that a 37-year-old defenseman coming off two broken legs could make the Maple Leafs, yet alone have an impact.

But Robidas helped stabilize a Toronto blueline under very trying circumstances. On many occasions, coaches and teammates cited his influence in the improvements made by the younger Leaf defensemen, notably Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly.

Robidas made his 900th NHL appearance during his 52-game tenure with Toronto in 2014-15, before shoulder surgery ended his season in mid-March. In those 52 games, the Sherbrooke, Que., native averaged 17:04 minutes of ice time and currently remains a team-best plus eight. He had one goal and six assists. Robidas is the eighth-longest surviving player of the 1995 draft.

“I feel like Ive always had to prove myself,” Robidas said when asked if he could stay in the league as a Leaf following the two separate leg injuries. “I was drafted (by Montreal) in the seventh round. Nobody thought I could play because I was too young, too weak. When I left for Dallas, a lot of people said I probably wouldn’t make the team (he stayed 10 years and hardly missed a game).

“Every year I have to challenge myself. I know I can still play and help this team. For me, age is not a factor.”

Vancouver: Henrik Sedin

Henrik Sedin has emerged from the ashes of Vancouver’s John Tortorella era to put together an impressive bounce back season.

Henrik is the backbone of the Canucks, a consummate leader and a true professional who is as accountable and approachable an athlete as you’ll ever see in any sport.

Before this year, people wondered how much he had left at age 34 after an injury-ravaged season in which his 679-game iron man streak came to an end.

This season, the Canucks captain has proven he remains an elite center. He has remained in the top ten in Western Conference scoring for most of the season, something which speaks volumes about his perseverance and dedication to the sport.

Washington: Eric Fehr

Two seasons ago, Washington Capitals center Eric Fehr was literally a broken player. Three shoulder surgeries had taken their toll on the 18th overall pick of the 2003 NHL draft and, without a pro contract, he was left with little choice than to rehabilitate his hockey career in Finland.

Signed by the Capitals as a free agent before the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Fehr, 29, is on the verge of matching his career high in goals (21) while taking on the new role of checking-line center and best-selling author.

Yes, Fehr spent last summer writing an anti-bullying children’s book titled “The Bulliest Dozer.”

“It’s about a bulldozer, all machines going to school, who’s a bit of a bully at school,” Fehr said. “And he learns that it’s not what he wants to do at the end. Pretty good story line I think.”

Fehr has spent much of this season reading his book to elementary school students, many of whom have sent him book reports about the importance of being kind to each other.

In honor of his perseverance and dedication to the sport of hockey, the Washington chapter of the PHWA has nominated Eric Fehr for the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Winnipeg: Ondrej Pavelec

In his sixth full season as an NHLer, Ondrej Pavelec had demonstrated that pigeon-holed players don’t have to remain as such.

Pavelec, 27, had endured the ups and downs of the Winnipeg Jets and Atlanta Thrashers since 2009, and his own personal ebbs and flows, but has emerged to be an important factor in the most urgent part of the season, trying to secure a first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is perseverance.

For the numbers crowd, he has improved in significant ways this season with a little less icetime. It’s in part due to his willingness to alter and refine some style and technical parts of his game over the most recent 18 months, and it’s still a work in progress. This is dedication.

Pavelec has two World Hockey Championship medals, gold from 2010 and a bronze from his more-outstanding 2011 tournament.

And the native of Czech Republic is an easy conversation in the locker room, a window to his passion for the game.

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