The award is presented to "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
Crosby returned to form this year after missing extended time with concussion issues the past two seasons. The Penguins captain finished fourth in the NHL with 56 points despite missing 12 games because of injuries, including a broken jaw he suffered when hit in the face with a puck on March 30.
Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last fall and missed 33 games as he underwent treatment. On April 22, he was activated from injured reserve and returned to the Wild lineup.
McQuaid suffered a season-threatening injury in September when he was diagnosed with a condition causing dangerous blood clots to form in his body. After undergoing two emergency operation to remove the clots, the defenceman dedicated himself to his recovery and was in the lineup when the Bruins opened the season against the Rangers in January.
A $2,500 grant from the Professional Hockey Writers' Association is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund in the name of the winner, who will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup final.