Masterton Nominees Are In: Chara & Two Former Islanders

Perseverance. Sportsmanship. Dedication. The player that best exemplifies those character traits is awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy at the end of the NHL season. The nominations for all 32 National Hockey League teams are in, all well-serving of votes.

For the New York Islanders, Zdeno Chara has received the nomination.

Zdeno Chara is about to finish his 24th NHL season, which will be his last season in the league. Chara’s dedication of him to the sport is an obvious one, as the 45-year old’s work ethic is always discussed by his teammates.

On Feb. 24, against the San Jose Sharks, Zdeno Chara broke the record for most games played by a defenseman in NHL history, as he took the ice for his 1,652nd regular-season game.

Mathew Barzal shared a story that when he would go to the gym, Chara was already there, and when Barzal would finish his workout and leave, Chara would still be working out. Various Islanders have talked about that work ethic throughout the season.

Despite his play taking a dip this season and over the last few, as expected, Zdeno Chara has not let that stop him from being a model teammate, a mentor for young players up and down the New York Islanders lineup.

Zdeno Chara has never won the Masterton Trophy over his Hall of Fame career.

There are two former New York Islanders on the ballot: Forwards Kyle Okposo (2007-2016) and Andrew Ladd (2016-20).

For Kyle Okposo, the fact that he is still playing in the NHL is deserving of an award in itself. Back in 2014-15, his second to last season as a member of the New York Islanders, Okposo suffered a detached retina (which he had been playing through). He found out about the injury back in January, and surgery was needed, which could leave him unable to see.

However, the surgery was a success, and he could continue to play.

In his first season as a member of the Buffalo Sabers, 2016-17, Kyle Okposo suffered a concussion that landed him in a neuro ICU, leaving significant doubt that his NHL career could continue. But he made his way back.

In 2019, Okposo dealt with another concussion where again, his ability to continue his career was up in the air. But like he always has, he returned.

Although his career continued, his play on the ice dropped drastically over the last five seasons from 2016-2021. That was until this season’s rise in performance, where health has been at the forefront.

The 34-year-old Kyle Okposo has 21 goals and 24 assists in 74 games, his highest goal total since the 2015-16 season, highest assist totals since 2017-18, and the most games played since 2018-19.

Not to mention, he wears an “A” on his sweater and has been a leader for a young Buffalo Sabers team with a ton of potential.

Now to Andrew Ladd.

Ladd’s career with the New York Islanders never panned out, being signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract as a veteran leader in the summer of 2016, but only suited up for 181 games over his four years on the island.

With the Islanders, Andrew Ladd suffered one injury after another, and it got to the point where the Islanders had moved on, even when Ladd appeared to be ready for NHL action. He ended up playing 31 games in Bridgeport (AHL) over his last three seasons on Long Island and just 30 at the NHL level.

In the summer, the Islanders traded Andrew Ladd to the Arizona Coyotes, one of the few teams that could take on his contract. It was also a team that would allow Ladd to play and be the leader he had always been, given their rebuild status.

The 36-year-old Ladd has not been a hefty point-getter this season, with just seven goals and five assists in 51 games played. But he’s played.

On Apr. 22, Ladd played in his 1,000th NHL game, a milestone that a few years seemed to be a given, but with what had transpired over the last few seasons, it became a milestone that may have been too far out of reach .

All three players mentioned and the 29 other players on the list all have stories to tell, stories that define the award.

You have Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price, who made his way back this season after offseason hip surgery and after checking himself into the NHL Player Assistance program for substance use.

You have Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes, who dealt with the tragic passing of his brother, former NHLer Jimmy Hayes this offseason, along with two abdominal surgeries and another surgery to drain fluid after a groin injury.

And these are just a few of the perseverance stories on display this season.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman back in March, the 2022 NHL Awards will take place in between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on the off-day. The host city for those games will be home to the event.

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