Stephen Johns, Oskar Lindblom and Bobby Ryan were named finalists for the Masterton Trophy on Thursday.
The award, voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is presented annually to the NHL player voted to best exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The winner will be announced during the conference finals.
Johns made his season debut for the Dallas Stars on Jan. 18 after missing 22 months because of post-traumatic headaches. After developing the headaches during training camp, the defenseman did not play in 2018-19 and missed the first 47 games this season before returning and playing 18:29 in a 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Johns had an assist in his third game back, a 3-2 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 1, and scored his first goal in nearly two years in a 5-3 win against the New York Rangers two days later. Johns finished the regular season with five points (two goals, three assists) in 17 games for Dallas, which was 9-6-2 with him in the lineup.
"My journey was a long one," Johns said. "I think throughout the first five or six months I was doing anything I could possibly to get back on the ice as soon as possible. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take 22 months to fulfill that but I think about a year in, I started to lose a lot of hope … I leaned on my support system a lot, probably too much at times but that was probably the biggest thing that helped me get through."
The Stars (37-24-8, .594 points percentage) will play the St. Louis Blues (.662), Colorado Avalanche (.657) and Vegas Golden Knights (.606) in the the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the Western Conference to determine the top four seeds into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the West.
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Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, on Dec. 13. At the time of his diagnosis, the forward had 18 points in 30 games and was tied with forward Travis Konecny for the lead on the Philadelphia Flyers with 11 goals. While undergoing chemotherapy, Lindblom supported the Flyers by attending several games and visiting the locker room, and the Flyers and a number of other players around the NHL supported him by wearing Oskar Strong shirts, which were made by Biscuit Tees, a company co-owned by Kim Parent, the daughter of Flyers legend Bernie Parent. On July 2, Lindblom rang a ceremonial bell at Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to signify the end of his cancer treatments.
"I'm very humbled to be considered for this award that so many courageous and great players have won," Lindblom told the Flyers website. "Seeing the overwhelming support from fans, my teammates and the entire hockey community has been very emotional for me and without a doubt helped me get through this difficult time, and back to being with and doing the things I love."
The Flyers (41-21-7, .645) will play the Boston Bruins (.714), Tampa Bay Lightning (.657) and Washington Capitals (.652) in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers in the Eastern Conference to determine the top four seeds into the playoffs from the East.
"Being from Philly, I've always kept an eye on the Flyers so I was happy to see that not only did he get to ring the beIl and beat [cancer] but the team was able to use it as a source of inspiration and rally around him and I'm sure that helped immensely in his recovery," Ryan said. "I'll be tuning in every game. I hope he gets to see the ice in the playoffs. He's got a fan in me."
Ryan took an extended leave of absence from the Ottawa Senators in November to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, citing issues with alcohol abuse. The forward returned against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, and two days later, he scored a hat trick in his first home game back, a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks. Ryan played in Ottawa's final eight games before the season was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, scoring four goals while averaging 16:03 of ice time.
"I'm glad I did it because I kind of had thought about it for a week leading up to that and I thought I needed to do it," Ryan said of entering the program. "I didn't think that it would be this rewarding for it to have been public and now I'm grateful that I've done that because it's not only helped me, it's helped me pay that forward and not to teach but to point people in the right direction for their own recovery."
Goalie Robin Lehner won the award with the New York Islanders last season.
The 2020 NHL Awards were scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed March 25.