When Devan Dubnyk‘s season began to slide back in 2013, the former Edmonton Oilers first round draft pick made it clear he didn’t want to get moved mid-season — but with Pekka Rinne out long-term in Nashville and a struggling Edmonton team trying to put things back together, the six foot six netminder saw himself dealt out of Alberta anyway.
One bad game was all it took for Dubnyk to be deemed a poor fit in Nashville, and he didn’t get along with goaltending coach Mitch Korn — so before he knew what was happening, Dubnyk was back on the move, this time to Montreal.
The Canadiens didn’t bother giving him any time with the NHL club, though — just a few months after he held the starting job in Edmonton, Devan Dubnyk was playing in Hamilton, Ontario for the AHL Bulldogs.
All it took was a one-year, $800,000 contract, though — and the faith of the Arizona Coyotes organization, plus a little change in perspective for Dubnyk — for his career to do a one-eighty. Just one calendar year later, he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist, a team MVP candidate for the Minnesota Wild, and a huge part of the reason the Central Division club made the post-season (then advanced to the second round). Going beyond that, though, he served as a calming presence both while in Minnesota and when standing behind Coyotes starter Mike Smith — not an easy feat considering the season he was coming off of.
As a result, it’s little surprise that Dubnyk was named one of the NHL’s three Masterton Trophy finalists — as the league’s award for the player with the most perseverance and dedication to the sport, Dubnyk’s story lends itself well to the honor.
Coming in as the league’s second Masterton finalist, though, is another netminder — Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.
Hammond, although a decent netminding prospect while at Bowling Green State University, projected to be a career AHLer — until spring 2015, when injuries to both starting netminder Craig Anderson and backup Robin Lehner left the Ottawa Senators with little other choice besides putting Hammond in net immediately.
Although he only had one relief appearance in net to his name at the NHL level, though, Hammond came in and blew the league away — over twenty-four games, he went 20-1-2, posting three shutouts and leading the Atlantic Division team into a post-season spot after sitting nearly fourteen points out of a playoff berth prior to his arrival. If Dubnyk showed dedication through his fall from grace and subsequent return to make a playoff push, Hammond showed it through pushing for the playoffs with no prior history of NHL level experience. His success story was one to top all others.
Although he was eventually pulled in the post-season — and the Senators fell in six games to the Montreal Canadiens — Hammond’s unexpected contributions to the club were more than worthy of league-wide recognition.
Finally, the third nominee — and only regular skater of the Masterton finalist trio — is Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Widely considered one of the NHL’s elite blue-liners, Letang had one of the most disastrous seasons from a health standpoint. Although known for having a history of concussions, Letang’s biggest obstacle lately has been the stroke he suffered last February that held him out of play for six weeks.
A 2013 Norris Trophy finalist, Letang — who was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft — finished this season with fifty-four points in sixty-nine games (he spent time off the ice at the end of the year with an upper body injury and concussion symptoms), and he’s been the picture of consistency throughout his career.
Almost beyond that, though, Letang has continued to be one of the league’s leaders off the ice, as well.
When he had his stroke in 2014, the 28-year old defenseman made it clear that he wanted to publicly acknowledge what had happened.
“I hope that by making my condition public at this time, I can help other people by encouraging them to seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms associated with a stroke – regardless of their age or general health,” Letang said.
The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas this June.