Nominations for the Masterton Trophy are still pouring in from around the NHL. Despite the fact we aren't even sure which men will be on the final ballot, there's already a clear favorite for this year's trophy. We wish a big "good luck" to this year's nominees as Minnesota's Josh Harding is the clear favorite to take home some hardware.
The Masterton is awarded to the player that exhibits "to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey". If you're familiar with Harding's story, you're aware that the previous sentence sounds like a perfect description for the Minnesota goaltender.
Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the fall of 2012. The disease affects the brain and spinal cord and impacts the central nervous system. Prior to his diagnosis, Harding was feeling dizzy and started seeing black dots during a workout. These symptoms are common in those suffering with multiple sclerosis, along with disorientation, muscle spasms and weakness.
Despite the devastating news, Harding immediately stated that he planned to work hard and prepare for the upcoming season. As it turns out, the lockout lasted a bit longer than expected and Harding had additional time to train and try to get a handle on the disease.
Harding's outlook on his situation was a positive one. Roughly a month after his diagnosis, Harding commented that his goals were still the same and that he wasn't looking for sympathy.
"You can let it get you down for a bit, but you've got to move past it. I know what my overall goal is to be, and that's a No. 1 goalie of the Minnesota Wild and to win a Stanley Cup here. It would make me happy to overcome this. Not just overcome this, but to really succeed with it.
I don't want people treating me different, I don't want people feeling bad for me, I don't want people moping around. I want this to be a story where when we look back, it was a happy story."
Harding has been a tremendous story this season. Minnesota has rolled with Niklas Backstrom in nearly every game they've played, but Harding has continued to work hard despite a lack of playing time. He has only appeared in four games and is 1-1-0 with a 2.92 GAA.
Harding's story is one that's still evolving. He recently missed a large chunk of time in February, March and April after dealing with complications caused by medication he takes for his multiple sclerosis. Still, his attitude remains resilient and he's now ready to back Backstrom as the Wild battle for a playoff spot.
Is the Masterton guaranteed to go to Harding? No. His lack of playing time this year might be the lone issue that holds him back from winning the award. That point aside, we have a tough time thinking of a candidate that's more deserving.