The winner is selected in a poll of the 30 chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with a $2,500 grant awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund in the name of that year's winner.
Crosby, 25, missed most of the previous two seasons dealing with concussion issues, and then the first half of the 2012-13 season -- along with the rest of the League -- during the lockout. Questions were asked if Crosby ever could be the same player he was prior to his injuries. Instead, he returned better than ever this season.
Crosby entered with a career average of 1.40 points per game, but in 2012-13 he had 56 points in 36 games, an average of 1.55. He also played every game for the Penguins until sustaining a broken jaw March 30 that ended his regular season. Despite sitting out the final month, he remained the League's leading scorer until the final week of the season, and he finished tied for third. Crosby also continued to evolve his game, posting a career-best plus-26 rating. He is a finalist for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award as well.
"I think whether you're nominated or not, you miss any extended period of time or through a tough injury, any time you can get back to playing hockey and get back to what you love to do, that's a big honor in itself," Crosby said. "To be recognized for that definitely means a lot. A lot of guys who have battled through different things that have won that. Definitely an honor."
Harding, 28, announced in November 2012 that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable autoimmune disease where the body randomly attacks the protective lining of nerves throughout the body, causing them to scar. The disease causes problems with balance, fatigue and blurred vision. Rather than quit, Harding fought through his illness, was on the roster opening night and in his first start turned in a 24-save shutout.
"Even if it changes one person's life to show that I'm not letting this come between me and my goals, that would be awesome," Harding told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in November.
Harding would be the first player for the Wild to ever win the Masterton.
McQuaid, 26, had two surgeries in September because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which was causing blood clots to form, including one that caused his right arm to swell. One procedure removed the blood clot from his arm, while another saw the removal of a rib and some of the muscle on the right side of his neck. The operations were successful, but left McQuaid unable to work out and on blood thinners.
Thought to be a season-ending injury, McQuaid instead recovered enough to return to the ice in December and was cleared to join the Bruins' opening-day roster. He a goal, three assists and 60 penalty minutes in 32 games, but the games he had to sit out were not related to the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
"I'm trying to make the most out of every day and enjoy each game … make sure I'm giving it my all," McQuaid told CSNNE.com. "Hopefully there won't be another situation where I miss time, but you never know."
A win by McQuaid would make him the fifth Bruin to win the Masterton, joining Phil Kessel (2007), Cam Neely (1994), Gord Kluzak (1990) and Charlie Simmer (1986).