Photo caption: 2023 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy Finalist
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock was named one of three finalists for the 2022-23 Bill Masterton Trophy. The trophy is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
Local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season; the top three vote-getters were designated as finalists. The winner will be revealed live during the 2023 NHL Awards at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Monday, June 26, (8 p.m. ET, TNT, SN, TVAS).
Below are the three finalists for the Masterton Trophy, in alphabetical order:
Clayton Keller, RW, Arizona Coyotes
Keller suffered a fractured femur during a game versus the San Jose Sharks on March 30, 2022, and underwent six months of rehab to be ready for the start of what became a career season in 2022-23. He appeared in all 82 games and set career highs in goals (37), assists (49) and points (86), matching the highest points total by a Coyotes player since the team moved to Arizona (Keith Tkachuk, 52-34—86 in 1996-97).
Keller represented the Coyotes at the 2023 NHL All-Star Game and posted 24 points in March, the most ever in a month by a Coyote.
“His mental toughness is probably the part I’m most proud of because I know what had to be going through his mind immediately after the injury and the surgery,” his father, Bryan Keller, told PHNX. “He had to wait a couple of days to start physical therapy, but once he was on the walker, he goes, ‘I’ll be skating in six weeks.’ And then once he started skating, he had already set a goal that he would be ready for opening night, which he was.”
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang persevered through a stroke, the second of his lifetime, and mourning the death of his father within a span of four weeks during the season. Through it all, he remained a Penguins cornerstone in his 17th season with the club. He ranked 10th among all NHL players in ice time per game (24:51) and recorded 12-29–41 in 64 games.
Letang is a Masterton Trophy finalist for the second time, finishing as a runner-up to Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk in 2014-15. “Obviously, there are some tough times, there’s emotional times. But at the end of the day, I always thought that I was going to push through it and be able to go on the other side and be the same or better,” Letang told The Athletic. “I always kind of took pride to be able to bring it every day. That’s how I was raised, never back down from a challenge or to never quit when you’re down.”
Alex Stalock, G, Chicago Blackhawks
Stalock signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks in July 2022, determined to regain an NHL roster spot. The 35-year-old, 11-year NHL veteran had appeared in one League game over the prior two seasons, having been diagnosed with myocarditis after testing positive for COVID-19 in 2019-20.
Stalock quickly won over teammates with his off-ice presence and on-ice performance while battling through setbacks ranging from concussions to oculomotor dysfunction, a vision problem that affects the central nervous system. He finished the season at 9-15-2 with a 3.01 GAA in 27 games.
“The last couple of years have been tough with what I’ve gone through,” Stalock told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Honestly, going through it, were there points where I had doubts in my mind that I would ever play again? Yeah. But at the same time, it’s the way I’m wired that I wouldn’t let that be the end of it.”
Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund
A $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.