PHWA announces 2023 Masterton Trophy nominees

The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is pleased to announce the 2023 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees.

Each of the PHWA’s 32 local chapters submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.”

The top three vote-getters, as determined by a membership-wide runoff, will be designated as finalists. The Masterton Trophy will be awarded, along with the other NHL major awards, during the Stanley Cup Final.

The following are this year’s nominees:

ANAHEIM — JAKOB SILFVERBERG: The 32-year-old Silfverberg has represented hard-working consistency over his 10 seasons with the Ducks but his ability to persist and give them some effective play after dealing with health issues in recent years is why he deserves to be nominated for his perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. He has overcome major hip surgery and blood clotting issues in his leg in the last two years. Healthy again, Silfverberg has missed only one game and brought his offensive production back into double digits in goals (10) and assists (16) while remaining dedicated to playing at both ends of the ice.

ARIZONA — CLAYTON KELLER: Clayton Keller could have focused his entire offseason on rehab. When he broke his right femur into two clean pieces after crashing into the boards on March 30, 2022, most analysts — internal and external — figured he would miss the start of the season. But this summer wasn’t just about getting healthy; it was about getting better. On his own dime, Keller hired a battery of specialists to help with everything from movement and mental state to on-ice strategy. Now he’s threatening to break Keith Tkachuk’s single-season Coyotes franchise points record, and he has blossomed into a bona fide NHL superstar.

BOSTON — NICK FOLIGNO: After a challenging first season with the Boston Bruins where injuries got in the way, Nick Foligno showed his determination and perseverance in enjoying a bounce-back season in Boston. After scoring just two goals in 2021-22, the 35-year-old Foligno rebounded with 10 goals and 26 points in 60 games while playing a vital bottom-6 role for a Boston Bruins hockey team that took the rest of the NHL by absolute storm. His leadership off the ice also helped tighten the team’s bond while shepherding along some of his younger teammates and lightening the captaincy load on Patrice Bergeron.

BUFFALO — CRAIG ANDERSON: The NHL’s oldest player at 41 years, goalie Craig Anderson agreed to come back for one more season and has been a major presence in both the locker room and on the ice. Coach Don Granato considers Anderson another coach and has often spoken of the calming influence the goalie has had on the NHL’s youngest team. Anderson, the 2017 Masterton winner while with Ottawa, has navigated Buffalo’s three-goalie rotation to win at least 10 games for the 15th time in his career while posting a .908 save percentage.

CALGARY — MIKAEL BACKLUND: Flames center Mikael Backlund is not only an example of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game, but you can add another important word to the list — loyalty. In March, Backlund joined an exclusive club by becoming just the third player to log 900 career regular-season appearances on behalf of the Flames franchise. The 34-year-old has been a model citizen around the Scotiabank Saddledome. He’s reliable on the ice, a perennial contender for the fittest Flame title, a leader in the locker room, and active in a community he has now called home for the past 14 seasons.

CAROLINA — JORDAN MARTINOOK: Jordan Martinook had to hold his breath at the start of the season after the Hurricanes put him on waivers in a cap-related move. Five months later, it’s hard to imagine Carolina without him. The 30-year-old alternate captain, who has battled injuries the past three seasons, has cemented himself in the Hurricanes’ top nine by becoming an invaluable part of the team’s shutdown line. His 11 goals are one shy of his total from the last three years, and his 31 points are a career-high. Most importantly, he’s a locker room leader and the ultimate team-first player.

CHICAGO — ALEX STALOCK: The Masterton shouldn’t just be a comeback player of the year award, but Alex Stalock’s dedication and perseverance in the face of the unknown — a diagnosis of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) following a bout with Covid-19 that allowed him to play just one NHL game over the 2021 and 2022-23 seasons — can’t be understated. And the gregarious goalie’s popularity and respect leaguewide despite being a journeyman/tweener throughout his career underscores his high level of sportsmanship. That he’s played so well (and so entertainingly) behind such a terrible team despite a concussion and ocular dysfunction (separate injuries) only boosts his case.

COLORADO — ANDREW COGLIANO: If you leave the Avalanche dressing room following a morning skate, you’ll probably see Andrew Cogliano running springs or doing some form of squat. At 35 years old and 1,200-plus games into his NHL career, Cogliano is as dedicated to his craft as ever. Cogliano came to Colorado from San Jose at the 2022 trade deadline and, as one of the most respected veterans in the league, became an instant leader, giving a memorable speech to the team ahead of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. After winning his first championship, he re-signed with Colorado for another year, and he has his most goals in a season since 2017-18.

COLUMBUS — BOONE JENNER: During a 10-year NHL career, Boone Jenner has built a reputation as one of the league’s most dedicated and respected players. The Columbus chapter of the PHWA is proud to nominate him for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Jenner, 29, is relentlessly competitive but rarely crosses the line with opponents or officials. He has played as the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 center all season, playing higher in the lineup because of a desperate need on the Columbus roster. Despite missing three weeks (11 games) with a broken thumb, Jenner has a club-leading 26 goals, the second-highest total of his career.

DALLAS — JAMIE BENN: In the four years coming into this season, Jamie Benn’s play was heavily scrutinized by those inside the Stars organization and those on the outside. Benn rose to prominence as a prolific scorer but his production took a dip since the 2018-19 season. After an offseason of altering his workout routine, Benn is having one of his most productive seasons in half a decade. He also played in his 1,000th career NHL game in February and became the longest-tenured captain in franchise history.

DETROIT — ROBBY FABBRI: At age 27, Fabbri already has undergone three ACL surgeries. His latest one delayed his debut this season to Jan. 4. . Fabbri’s determination showed in how energetically and effectively he played, as he recorded goals in three of his first four games. He immediately elbowed his way into the top six mix and power play time. Fabbri appeared in 28 games, recording seven goals and nine assists.

EDMONTON — DEREK RYAN: Derek Ryan was an undrafted 24-year-old when he graduated from the University of Alberta Golden Bears 12 years ago, and left Edmonton for four years of pro hockey Europe. He rekindled his NHL dream in 2015, Carolina camp fodder at age 29. Today he is 36 and a trusted depth forward in Edmonton, seventh on the team with 12 goals. Dependable, with better hands than you’d think, he’s approaching 500 NHL games played. “My life’s changed a lot since my university days,” said Ryan, the Oilers nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. “It’s nice to (be) back here.”

FLORIDA — PATRIC HORNQVIST: After winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hornqvist really does not have anything to prove on the ice. But yet, there he is, each and every day, working out in yellow no-contact garb with the Panthers either in practice, morning skates or just to warm up the goalies. Hornqvist, 36, has been on long-term injured reserve after suffering his second concussion within a span of a month back in December. The Panthers say he will not play again this season, yet there the 15-year veteran is there every time the Panthers hit the ice. Florida coach Paul Maurice also credits Hornqvist for helping Anthony Duclair come back from Achilles tendon surgery as those two were workout partners in the months leading up to Duclair’s return. Just don’t call him ‘Coach Hornqvist.’ He’s not ready for that just yet.

LOS ANGELES — PHEONIX COPLEY: When Pheonix Copley was signed on July 13, 2022 by Los Angeles as a free agent, the move was thought to be a minor league goaltending depth add as Pheonix had only played two NHL games since the 2019-‘20 season. But with established starters Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen underachieving, the 31-year-old Copley was summoned to the big club and made his biggest save, that of the Kings season. He set a franchise record by becoming the fastest goaltender to reach the 20-win mark needing only 29 appearances and earned a one-year contract extension.

MINNESOTA — MASON SHAW: When Mason Shaw tore an ACL for the third time, his father, Aaron, flew to Des Moines to take his son home for good. Instead, Shaw stayed, began his third six-month rehab and this past fall had an exceptional training camp before being named Iowa Wild captain. Called up after two games, the 24-year-old Shaw never left. He became a fourth-line mainstay and penalty killer before suffering another season-ending knee injury on April 1 at Vegas. Shaw could have quit umpteen times. He could have been a minor leaguer forever. Instead, he worked exhaustively to become an NHLer. That’s why as devastated as teammates were for him in early April, they have no doubt he’ll be back.

MONTRÉAL — ALEX BELZILE: À 31 ans, Alex Belzile a marqué son premier but dans la LNH le 12 février dernier contre les Oilers d’Edmonton. Il en était à son 20e match avec le Canadien, réparti sur les trois dernières saisons. Depuis l’époque de l’expansion de 1967, il est le plus vieux joueur du Canadien à obtenir son premier but. Jamais, Belzile n’a abandonné son rêve d’atteindre la grande ligue. Il a franchi les étapes une à la fois, jouant 168 matchs dans la ECHL à Gwinnett en Georgie, à Anchorage en Alaska, à Boise en Idaho, à Fort Wayne en Indiana et à Loveland au Colorado. Il a aussi visité plusieurs villes de la Ligue américaine avec des arrêts à Hamilton, San Antonio et Laval pour un total de 319 rencontres. Capitaine du Rocket de Laval en début de saison, l’ailier symbolise la persévérance et le dévouement pour son sport.

Alex Belzile scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 12 against the Edmonton Oilers…at 31 years of age. It was his 20th game with the Canadiens spread over the past three seasons. Since the 1967 expansion, he is the oldest Canadiens player ever to score his first NHL goal. Belzile never gave up on his dream of reaching the NHL, getting there step by step. He played 168 games in the ECHL, from Gwinnett County, Georgia to Anchorage, Alaska to Fort Wayne, Indiana to Boise, Idaho to Loveland, Colorado. His stops over 319 games in the AHL included places like Hamilton, Ontario, San Antonio, Texas, and finally, Laval, Quebec. Named captain of the Laval Rocket at the beginning of this season, the winger personifies perseverance and dedication to hockey.

NASHVILLE — CODY GLASS: Despite just turning 24, Glass has faced his share of adversity in his young career, including injuries, inconsistencies that led to long stretches in the minors, and even being stuck in the U.S. during the height of Covid-19 unable to return home to his native Canada while rehabbing a torn ACL. Called into GM David Poile’s office prior to the team’s season-opening trip to Europe, Glass became emotional when told he would be accompanying the team. He’s remained at the NHL level all season, spending a significant amount of time centering Nashville’s top line.

NEW JERSEY — DOUGIE HAMILTON: Dougie Hamilton is a Canadian defenseman who plays for the New Jersey Devils. The Boston Bruins selected Hamilton with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft – and he’s grown into one of the league’s top defensemen since then. Hamilton, 29, has a career-high in points (71), goals (20) and assists (51) this season, despite suffering a brutal jaw injury last January. Hamilton said he “still can’t feel” his jaw sometimes, but he’s persevered and has been a key part of the Devils’ turnaround season (New Jersey clinched its first playoff berth since 2017-18 on March 25).

NEW YORK (ISLANDERS) — ZACH PARISE: Zach Parise: At 38, Zach Parise is a 20-goal scorer for the 11th time in 18 NHL seasons and for the first time since 2019-20, making him and the late J.P. Parise the fourth father-son duo in NHL history with 20 goals for the same franchise. He’s played on the top line and is a regular on both special teams. His teammates rave about how supportive he is. In short, hockey is fun again for Parise after his on-ice role was reduced by the Wild and he was ultimately bought out of the final four seasons of a 13-year, $98 million deal.

NEW YORK (RANGERS) — JIMMY VESEY: A journeyman that competed for four different teams over three seasons, Jimmy Vesey returned to the first team he signed with as a coveted free agent out of Harvard, the Rangers, on a professional tryout. He parlayed it into a one-year contract, and then a two-year extension through 2024-25 after it became clear that he was an invaluable addition to the lineup. Vesey, who had to change his game over those tough three seasons to remain in the NHL, saw time on every single line this season. His current 24 points represent his highest production since his last season in New York in 2018-19. This season has been a full circle moment for Vesey, who seemingly always wanted to make it work on Broadway and now he actually has.

OTTAWA — DERICK BRASSARD: Derick Brassard arrived at training camp on a PTO and was considered a long shot to crack the Senators’ roster. But the 35-year-old earned a contract just prior to the start of the regular season and has carved out a full-time role with the Senators in 2022-23. At Madison Square Garden in March, Brassard suited up for his 1,000th career NHL game and embraced the moment by scoring two goals to help propel the Senators to a victory.

PHILADELPHIA — NICK SEELER: The 29-year-old defenseman is a study in perseverance. In 2020-21, he stepped away from hockey for a season because he needed a “mental and physical break.” A journeyman most of his career, he wasn’t expected to be a regular this season. But he has become one of the Flyers’ best defensemen. He has set a career-high in goals and points, is second on the Flyers in hits, and is second among their D-men with a plus-2 rating. In addition, he is among the NHL leaders in blocked shots. Seeler is the ultimate team player. He is someone who always hustles, always plays with physicality, and drops his gloves to protect a teammate. For someone who left the sport for a year, he has revived his career and made his mark.

PITTSBURGH — KRIS LETANG: The Penguins’ nominee for a fourth time, Letang’s 17-year career has been one setback after another. His best friend, Luc Bourdon, died in a motorcycle accident during Letang’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final (2008). Letang, a lifetime sufferer of debilitating migraine, had a stroke (2015) that led to the diagnosis of a small hole in his heart. He and his wife lost a child to a miscarriage (2016). A neck injury forced him to miss the Penguins’ Cup run (2017). He also has missed games on three occasions because of a concussion. But even with all of that, this season has been especially trying for Letang. He missed time because of a second stroke and the death of his father. Still, Letang remains the Penguins’ best defenseman — leading that position in goals, points, and minutes — while also serving as a mentor to Pierre-Olivier Joseph, a fellow French Canadian who lives with Letang’s family in Pittsburgh. Always a deserving nominee, Letang would be a worthy winner of the Masterton Trophy.

SAN JOSE — NIKOLAI KNYZHOV: Knyzhov was the Sharks’ rookie of the year in 2020-21. That season ended with sports hernia surgery, which set off a nearly two-year odyssey to get back to game action. The first surgery led to four total procedures, infection, and missing all of 2021-22. Then, in the run up to this season, Knyzhov suffered a torn Achilles tendon. He earned consistent praise for his attitude and work ethic during the rehab process. Knyzhov returned to play in the AHL on Jan. 25 – 623 days after his last game with the Sharks, and to the NHL on March 6.

SEATTLE — BRANDON TANEV: Rugged Kraken winger Brandon Tanev overcame a torn ACL that ended his 2021-22 season midway through and has rallied to form part of arguably the NHL’s best fourth line for his playoff-bound squad. Admired by teammates for his locker room sense of humor and gritty on- ice leadership, Tanev has also taken a primary role in helping the Kraken form lasting bonds within the Seattle community. He was the first Kraken player last season to volunteer to make community visits. This season, he’s continued that in hospitals and schools – his ghost-like facial expressions becoming a huge hit with children.

ST. LOUIS — SAMMY BLAIS: Sammy Blais, 26, endured long odds of making it to the NHL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Blues in 2014. Not only did the winger find his way into the league, but he was a productive member of St. Louis’ Stanley Cup-winning club in 2019. In 2021, Blais was traded to the New York Rangers in a high-profile trade involving Pavel Buchnevich, but he played in just 14 games before suffering a torn ACL and missing the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Blais returned to the Rangers’ roster in 2022 but was subsequently dealt back to the Blues in another high-profile trade involving Vladimir Tarasenko in 2023. After scoring zero goals with the Rangers in 54 games, Blais eclipsed his career point total in St. Louis.

TAMPA BAY — PIERRE-EDOUARD BELLEMARE: In a Lightning locker room full of stars, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare carves out his leadership niche with his constant positive attitude and passion for the game. This season, he played his 608th NHL game, setting the record for most played by a French national. He’s played with a heavy heart. In October, he found out that cancer had returned for his mother, Frederique. He left the team briefly around Thanksgiving to return to France to essentially say goodbye to his mother. Days after his mother died in late January, Bellemare gave an inspirational speech to his team and in his second game back, scored a goal in the Lightning’s win over the Kings and pointed to the sky.

TORONTO — MARK GIORDANO: The oldest Maple Leaf at age 39, Giordano broke the modern-day NHL record for most career shot blocks in February with his 2,045th. While the stat has only been kept regularly by the league since 2005-06, it remains a remarkable achievement, given how hard pucks are fired today and the heightened risk of injury. As of early April, he is also ranked in the top 30 for blocks by an NHL defenceman this season. Giordano has proved indispensable for the Leafs in many other ways, as a mentor to the youngest players and the club’s last defenceman to take a game off in the 2022-23 regular season, consistently ignoring team suggestions to skip morning skates. In his first full season in Toronto, he has averaged 18:57 of ice time. In the summer of 2022, Giordano signed a two-year contract at a near minimum salary to try and help the team’s tight salary cap situation and be part of his hometown’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup final since 1967.

VANCOUVER — BROCK BOESER: The Canucks winger is in his sixth NHL season and none have been easy. He lost his father to dementia and cancer last season, an exceptionally painful loss for him and his family. This season he suffered a wrist injury in pre-season, came back, had his surgical wound re-open, putting him back on the shelf for a time, then was nearly a healthy scratch on Hockey Fights Cancer night. But since Christmas, he’s improved his game and has become the no. 1 choice on J.T. Miller’s right wing. He’s now three points shy of tying a career-high while proving to be a solid two-way winger.

VEGAS — PHIL KESSEL: Kessel’s perseverance and dedication to ice hockey are unquestionable with his 1,060 (and counting) consecutive games played as proof. Kessel has played through bumps, bruises, and worse to be there for his team night in and night out for more than 13 years. The Ironman streak alone is worthy of the nomination, and his love for the game helped cement it. He’s one of the most popular players in every dressing room he enters, and his smile on the ice every day at practice is contagious.

WASHINGTON — JOHN CARLSON: The same night he assisted on Alex Ovechkin’s 801st goal and minutes before No. 802, John Carlson took a slap shot to the head from former teammate Brenden Dillon. Carlson went to the hospital. The damage was a fractured skull and a severed temporal artery. Even with the Capitals realistically out of the playoff chase, Carlson returned exactly three months later to show he could still play hockey in light of the injury.

WINNIPEG — SAM GAGNER: It hasn’t been an easy road for Sam Gagner, whose path to 1,000 NHL games included several unplanned stops in the minors during the past several seasons. But those three demotions to the American Hockey League didn’t diminish Gagner’s love for hockey, it simply provided some additional motivation and perspective. The sixth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft was signed by the Jets in early September to provide some versatility and flexibility. That’s exactly what he was able to do, playing a variety of roles before his season came to a premature end after he underwent hip surgery.