The nominees are being announced today for the first of several awards which will be given out this summer at the 2018 NHL Awards ceremony.

The NHL gives the official purpose of the Masterton:

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.

A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

In practice, the award is often reduced to the “best sob story” prize, which is unfair both to the ideas it’s supposed to honour and to the players who receive it. Sometimes it’s more of a longevity award. Jaromir Jagr won it the  year before last and Craig Anderson last year. Dominic Moore won in 2014 after his wife died of cancer, and he returned to the Rangers the next season.

Roman Polak is the Leafs nominee this year. He played only two games in the playoffs last season after he suffered a horrific looking leg injury. He needed a long time to recover, and didn’t have an NHL contract heading into this season. He persevered, and he got a contract from the Leafs, and the inevitable injuries to other defencemen and the lack of right-shooters on the Leafs conspired to give him more time on the ice than had been expected.

He doesn’t look like a man in his thirties who spent the summer in rehab from a serious injury.

“They had a tough schedule, and I didn’t want them to see me, there,” says Polak now, five months after 13 screws were installed to repair the broken leg he suffered in Game 2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round series against Washington. “I’d rather stay by myself. I don’t know. I didn’t feel good after the surgery, and it was painful, and I didn’t want anybody to see me as I’m laying there in the bed, you know, struggling. I don’t like that.”

That was then.  Now he’s hit his point total of last year in only 49 games played, and he makes for an effective third pair with Travis Dermott. Every aging defender needs a rookie partner, just ask Zdeno Chara.

A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

This year the PHWA will also be releasing the voting lists for these awards, which is a practice popularized in other sports. (No one at Pension Plan Puppets is a member of this group.)

The last time a Maple Leafs player won the award was Jason Blake in 2008. He had the same form of leukemia that Brian Boyle has. So I think we have our front-runner to win this award in Boyle. Boyle is much more than a man who has an illness, however. He’s shown all of three of the Masterton qualities in abundance throughout his career. He’s also only two points away from last year’s point total.

The full list of nominees announced so far (sourced from TSN and the tweets of various PHWA members):

2018 NHL Masterton Nominees

Anaheim Ducks
Arizona CoyotesJakob Chychrun
Boston BruinsDavid Backes
Buffalo SabresKyle Okposo
Calgary FlamesMatt Stajan
Carolina HurricanesJordan Staal
Chicago BlackhawksJeff Glass
Colorado AvalancheCarl Soderberg
Columbus Blue JacketsZach Werenski
Dallas StarsMattias Janmark
Detroit Red Wings
Edmonton OilersAdam Larsson
Florida PanthersRoberto Luongo
Los Angeles KingsDustin Brown
Minnesota WildMatt Cullen
Montreal CanadiensAntti Niemi
Nashville PredatorsAustin Watson
New Jersey DevilsBrian Boyle
New York IslandersJosh Bailey
New York RangersChris Kreider
Ottawa SenatorsMark Borowiecki
Philadelphia FlyersClaude Giroux
Pittsburgh PenguinsKris Letang
San Jose SharksJoe Thornton
St. Louis BluesCarter Hutton
Tampa Bay LightningSteven Stamkos
Toronto Maple LeafsRoman Polak
Vancouver CanucksDerek Dorsett
Vegas Golden KnightsBrad Hunt
Washington CapitalsDevante Smith-Pelly
Winnipeg JetsTyler Myers