NEW YORK - Jay Bouwmeester has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the player who "best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
One player from each team is nominated by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and the nominees will be narrowed down to three finalists prior to the NHL Awards in June.
"It's kind of cool, a little recognition for the work that you put in over the summer and coming back from injury," Bouwmeester said. "There are other guys that have gone through the same thing, probably well-deserving, too. It's cool, just something nice that (comes) along the way."
The Masterton Trophy is typically awarded to players who have overcome or battled through career-threatening injuries or life-threatening illnesses. Bouwmeester played just 35 games in 2017-18 due to a nagging hip injury and was shut down for the season in March, where he underwent surgery that would require four to six months of recovery.
When he did get back on the ice, he wasn't himself. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bouwmeester had a minus-14 rating and played fewer than 20 minutes in 14 of his 25 games and had been a healthy scratch four times. Since then, Bouwmeester is a plus-11, has contributed three goals and 10 assists and has played more than 20 minutes in 31 games.
Video: Bouwmeester on Masterton Trophy nomination
"I'm not as young as I once was, and throughout the whole process, you don't know what you're going to get back to," Bouwmeester said. "Everyone keeps telling you give it time and you'll be back to normal, but like anybody, as the calendar winds down to training camp, you're wishing things would speed up a little bit. The start of the year was a little bit tough because I wasn't really at a place I wished I was, but you have to work through that. It's all good now… I feel better than I have in the last couple of years."
"I can't take credit for Bouwmeester's turnaround, that's him," Blues Head Coach Craig Berube said in February in the midst of his club's franchise-record setting 11-game win streak. "This guy is an unbelievable worker. We talk about Ryan O'Reilly as a worker, but this guy is right there with him. In the gym, doing all the things he needed to do. That hip injury - other players that had that injury, that takes a year sometimes to get back to your game. He's done it in a pretty quick turnaround I think… You have to be patient, especially with a guy like that that's played that long with the character he has. It's worked out so far, he's come around, he's been a real good player for us.
"We're lucky to have him."
Bouwmeester likely won't be the only Blues player who is nominated for an NHL Award in June. Ryan O'Reilly is making a strong case for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. Jordan Binnington, who leads all goaltenders in goals-against average (1.81), ranks second in save-percentage (.930) and is just two wins shy of becoming the Blues' leader amongst rookie goaltender in wins, could be a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the League's rookie of the year. Berube, who has led the Blues from the bottom of the League to being on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, could be considered for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL's Coach of the Year.