The award is presented each season to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
Each of the 30 chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association submitted nominations at the conclusion of the regular season. The top three vote-getters were designated as finalists.
The winner will be announced June 18 during the NHL's awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
Chelios is being recognized for his remarkable longevity. At 47, he is the oldest player in the NHL, and despite diminished ice time, still plays a key leadership role with the Wings. His 1,644 games played are the most among active players and rank fourth in league history.
Both Sullivan and Zednik have overcome major injuries.
Sullivan missed almost two full years following a back injury suffered in February 2007. Sullivan underwent two back surgeries in attempts to repair a fragmented disc and tried several different cures.
But an intensive workout regimen with a strength and conditioning coach finally helped the injury heal and Sullivan returned to the Nashville lineup Jan. 10.
Just over a year ago, Zednik lost five pints of blood and required life-saving emergency surgery after his neck was sliced with a skate blade. He returned to the lineup this season, scoring 17 goals and providing experience and leadership to a young Panthers team.
A US$2,500 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.