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Tough choice ahead for Masterton Trophy

Jagr, Zuccarello, Dupuis among most deserving, says NHL.com panel

NHL.com @NHL

Every season around this time, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association releases its list of 30 nominees for the Masterton Trophy, one for each NHL team as voted on by its chapter in the PHWA.

And every year the list is a trove of stories of players who fit the description for the trophy's intention, to honor the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication" to the game.

Because NHL.com staff members are not part of the PHWA, we do not have a say in who should win the Masterton Trophy. But we can have an opinion.

In lieu of our Trophy Tracker, here is a compilation of opinions and selections from five NHL.com staff members on who they think should win the Masterton Trophy and who should be the other two finalists. You'll notice a regard for a certain 44-year-old right wing:

Arpon Basu, LNH.com Managing Editor

WINNER: Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

Video: FLA@TBL: Jagr tallies 25th goal on the power play

For starters, Jagr is 44 years old and is not only still playing in the NHL, he's doing so at a very high level. The right wing is the Panthers' top scorer and a key component of one of the top lines in hockey with 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau. It's Jagr's work ethic and diligent preparation on a daily basis that allows him to continue playing this well. He is "dedication to hockey" personified.

FINALISTS: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Vincent Lecavalier, Los Angeles Kings

Datsyuk has maintained a high level of play while fighting chronic injuries at age 37. One just has to see the forward limp into the arena for a game to understand how difficult it is for him to play, then watch his rigorous postgame workout to see how dedicated he is to doing so.

Lecavalier easily could have continued collecting a paycheck to be a healthy scratch for the Philadelphia Flyers, but he didn't do that. The center helped broker a trade to the Kings by agreeing to retire at the end of the season and forego the final two years of his contract and $6 million in salary in order to get back on the ice. He persevered and has become a valuable contributor for the Kings.

Brian Compton, NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

WINNER: Vincent Lecavalier, Los Angeles Kings

Video: LAK@SJS: Lecavalier nets Kings' only two goals
 
Many believed Lecavalier's NHL career was over earlier this season when he had one point in seven games and was often a healthy scratch with the Philadelphia Flyers. But a trade to Los Angeles on Jan. 6 has re-energized the 35-year-old, who has 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 36 games and has played a major role in the Kings' pursuit of the Pacific Division title.

FINALISTS: Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers; Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

Zuccarello was struck in the head by a Ryan McDonagh slap shot during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and briefly lost the ability to speak. He is fortunate to be living a normal life, let alone be tied for the Rangers lead in scoring with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 76 games. It is a remarkable turnaround.

Jagr has been around long enough that he's playing either with or against the sons who watched their fathers do the same. But here he is, still one of the NHL's premier players, leading what is otherwise a relatively young Panthers team to the postseason. He is unquestionably one of the most dedicated players in any sport.
 
Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNER: Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers

Video: NYR@BUF: Zuccarello nets a goal from sharp angle

Zuccarello played five games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs before sustaining a life-threatening injury. It took four days before the 5-foot-7, 179-pound right wing could speak again and regain feeling in his arm after he sustained a brain contusion and fractured skull. The 28-year-old Norwegian, who was never picked in an NHL Draft, returned to the lineup this season and has set NHL career highs in goals and points while playing a top-line role.

FINALISTS: Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers; Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils

Jagr has continually found ways to beat Father Time. He plays at a high level alongside linemates Huberdeau and Barkov, he leads the Panthers in points, and has set numerous NHL records. His workout regimen is well documented, and this season he was named to his 13th All-Star Game.

Greene was never picked in an NHL Draft but came to the Devils as a free agent in 2006, has played in more than 300 straight games, and is one of the most unheralded defensemen in the NHL. The 33-year-old was named Devils captain this season and has unselfishly spent much of his career helping groom young talent within the system while playing against the top offensive units in the League. Greene had a positive plus-minus rating, finished with the most blocked shots (467) and had the highest SAT For (1,230) the previous three seasons, when the Devils failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Shawn Roarke, NHL.com Director of Editorial

WINNER: Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh Penguins

Video: MON@PIT: Dupuis gives Penguins the lead 13 seconds in

Three seasons ago, Dupuis returned from a torn ACL to play. This season, he tried to play through a blood-clotting condition that scuttled the 2014-15 season. That lasted until Dec. 8, 2015, when the forward announced his retirement after another health scare related to the clotting condition. Few loved to play hockey as much as Dupuis, 36, and he did everything possible to continue playing before the odds grew too long. He was not drafted by an NHL team but parlayed an opportunity from the Minnesota Wild into an 871-game career and 409 points.

FINALISTS: Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers; Mike Condon, Montreal Canadiens

Zuccarello traveled a long, hard road to the NHL, playing for several years in Europe before opening eyes with a strong tournament for Norway at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His NHL career almost ended during last season's playoffs, but Zuccarello fought his way back and has been a key to New York's success.

It took an injury to stalwart goalie Carey Price to give Condon his shot at playing regularly in the NHL, but he earned it by going from undrafted free agent to the ECHL to the American Hockey League before his surprising run in training camp allowed him to claim the backup job and, eventually, the starter's role for one of the most famous franchises in sports.

Dan Rosen, NHL.com Senior Writer

WINNER: Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

Jagr is the very definition of what a Masterton Trophy winner should be. His perseverance to the game is unyielding. He's a workaholic on and off the ice, all day long. His sportsmanship can't be questioned. Jagr is unanimously respected around the League for his ability and how he conducts himself on and off the ice. His dedication to the game is beyond reproach. He has taken the young players in Florida under his guidance and shown them what it is to be a professional while flourishing with them. On top of it all, he could finish as the Panthers' leading scorer.

FINALISTS: Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers; Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes

Video: DAL@ARI: Domi roofs backhander to even game at 1

Zuccarello had to prove himself at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to get a chance to play in the NHL. He could lead the Rangers in scoring this season, which is remarkable considering it was just a little more than 11 months ago when he sustained a brain contusion. He sometimes struggles to speak and experiences numbness in his right leg but has played every game this season.

Domi, a rookie forward, instantly helped create an energy in Arizona that hasn't been there since Jeremy Roenick played for the Coyotes in downtown Phoenix. That Domi is thriving is a testament to his discipline. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was diagnosed as a 12-year-old. He wears an insulin pump and lives with a diabetic-alert dog.

Here is the list of the Masterton Trophy nominees from the Professional Hockey Writers' Association:

Anaheim Ducks: Andrew Cogliano

Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi

Boston Bruins: Jonas Gustavsson

Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O'Reilly

Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano

Carolina Hurricanes: Nathan Gerbe

Chicago Blackhawks: Michal Rozsival

Colorado Avalanche: Carl Soderberg

Columbus Blue Jackets: Fedor Tyutin

Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn

Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk

Edmonton Oilers: Matt Hendricks

Florida Panthers: Jaromir Jagr

Los Angeles Kings: Vincent Lecavalier

Minnesota Wild: Nate Prosser

Montreal Canadiens: Mike Condon

Nashville Predators: Carter Hutton

New Jersey Devils: Andy Greene

New York Islanders: Travis Hamonic

New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello

Ottawa Senators: Zack Smith

Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pascal Dupuis

St. Louis Blues: Brian Elliott

San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton

Tampa Bay Lightning: Anton Stralman

Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer *

Vancouver Canucks: Dan Hamhuis

Washington Capitals: Dmitry Orlov

Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien

* Reimer was traded to the Sharks on Feb. 27

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