The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game of hockey” by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The Trophy was first presented by the PHWA in 1968 to commemorate the late William Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars, who died on January 15, 1968 after sustaining an injury on the ice.
“I am honored to be named this year's recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy,” said Kessel. "The list of players who have received this award in the past is incredible, and I am a little shocked to be included in such a prestigious group.
"I am fortunate to be surrounded by many great people who all helped me through last season, especially my family, my friends and my teammates, as well as the entire Boston Bruins medical staff.
"To Bruins fans everywhere, I would like to say 'thanks' for all of your kind words and support. You were in my corner from game one, and I am very excited about being a member of the Bruins organization for years to come.”
Kessel, who was selected fifth overall by the Bruins in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, played one season of college hockey at the University of Minnesota before joining Boston last fall.
The highly regarded 19-year old forward from Madison, Wisconsin was off to a productive start to his rookie campaign when he was diagnosed with embryonal testicular carcinoma, or testicular cancer, on December 9, 2006. On December 11, Kessel underwent surgery to remove the cancer, and on December 16, 2006 was announced cancer-free by Bruins team physician, Dr. David Judge.
Three weeks after surgery Kessel was back to practicing with the team, and returned to Bruins line-up on January 9, 2007 in Ottawa versus the Senators.
Although he missed 11 games due to his illness, Kessel still managed to appear in 70 games for the Bruins during the campaign and recorded 11 goals and 18 assists for a total of 29 points. For his efforts, Kessel was selected to play in 2006-07 NHL Young Stars game in Dallas as part of the league’s All-Star festivities and recorded a hat trick in the game as the Eastern Conference went on to defeat the West 9-8.
Kessel finished off his 2006-2007-season hockey season by representing Team USA at the IIHF World Championships in Moscow this past spring. In the tournament, Kessel posted two goals and five assists for seven points in seven games as he helped lead the American squad to the quarterfinals.
Other Boston Bruins who have been honored with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy include Charlie Simmer (1986), Gord Kluzak (1990), and Cam Neely (1994). Brad Park received the award as a member of the Detroit Red Wings after leaving the Bruins in 1984. Other notable past recipients of the prestigious honor include, Teemu Selanne (2006), Steve Yzerman (2003), Saku Koivu (2002), and Mario Lemieux (1993).