Sharks veteran Joe Thornton has been nominated for the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for the third year in a row.
Thornton is one of 31 candidates for an award given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
The 40-year-old Thornton is two years removed from a second major knee surgery that sidelined him for the last half of the 2017-18 season and threatened to end his career.
“Jumbo” didn’t show any signs of slowing down in a season overshadowed at times by trade speculation. He was one of five players to appear in all 70 of the Sharks’ games before the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thornton had 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in an average of 15:30 minutes of ice time per game.
It was also a season of milestones in Thornton’s 15th season in teal. In December, Thornton became the 12th player in NHL history to appear in 1,600 career games. Two months later he recorded his 1,500th career NHL point and his 800th assist as a Shark.
Before the season was halted, the six-time All-Star had moved past Adam Oates for seventh on the NHL’s all-time assist list and moved into the Top 10 in all-time games played (he’s at 1,636, and 1,104 of those are with the Sharks).
He’d like to keep going, too. Thornton, who will turn 41 on July 2, has no intentions of hanging up his skates any time soon, already proclaiming he plans to return in 2020-21.
The Masterton Trophy commemorates Bill Masterton, a former Minnesota North Stars player who died in 1968 following an injury suffered in a game. The winner will be selected from a poll of the 30 chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Associationn. The finalists will be announced later this summer.
The Sharks have produced on Masterton winner, Tony Granato in 1997.
Like most seasons, there is no shortage of strong Masterton candidates. Here are just a few others from around the league:
Oskar Lindblom, Philadelpha Flyers forward: The 23-year-old was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, and has recently completed treatment. He was tied for the team lead with 11 goals when he was diagnosed in December. In a statement released by the team on Monday, Lindblom said, “I look forward to the day I’m back on the ice.”
Stephen Johns, Dallas Stars defenseman: He missed 22 months because of post-concussion syndrome and returned this season to play 17 games. The 28-year-old’s improbable comeback included scoring an emotional first goal in February against the Rangers with his parents in the stands at Madison Square Garden. He ended the season with two goals and three assists.
Jay Bouwmeester, St. Louis Blues defenseman: The 36-year-old suffered a cardiac event during a game in February and requiring a defibrillator implanted in his chest to regulate his heartbeat. His playing career is very much up in the air, but he has been widely lauded for his presence and support with the team following the incident.
Robby Fabbri, Detroit Red Wings center: Two major two major knee injuries nearly ended his career before it started, but finally healthy and getting a fresh start following a trade from the Blue to the Red Wings, the 24-year-old got to show off his potential. He scored 14 goals and totaled 31 points in 52 games with Detroit.
Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman: The 24-year-old had the best season of his career, but more importantly, was cancer-free after being diagnosed with testicular cancer last summer. Theodore set a franchise record for points by a defenseman with 46.
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators forward: Ryan, 33, took a leave of absence in November to begin treatment for alcohol abuse and then made a dramatic return with a hat trick in his first game back in Ottawa.
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks goalie: Had a career season at the age of 30 despite missing a month to deal with the sudden loss of his father to cancer.
Here are all the 31 nominees are selected by each PHWA chapter.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Miller
Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland
Boston Bruins: Kevan Miller
Buffalo Sabres: Curtis Lazar
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Carolina Hurricanes: James Reimer
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nathan Gerbe
Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns
Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
Minnesota Wild: Alex Stalock
Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber
Nashville Predators: Jarred Tinordi
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac
New York Islanders: Thomas Hickey
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan
Philadelphia Flyers: Oskar Lindblom
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin
St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn
Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman
Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom
Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore
Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Letestu