The National Hockey League announced finalists for both the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which went to Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov last year, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey” yesterday. Noel Acciari was the Panthers nominee for the Masterton.
Here are the three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,” in alphabetical order:
Nathan MacKinnon - Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon ranked fifth in the NHL with 35-58—93 in 69 games, 43 points more than his next-closest teammate, to lead the Avalanche into the playoffs for the third consecutive season. He also placed among the top 10 in the League in power-play points (4th; 31), assists (6th; 58), power-play goals (t-6th; 12), goals (9th; 35) and power-play assists (t-10th; 19), while topping the NHL in shots on goal (318). MacKinnon did so while registering a career-low 12 penalty minutes, the second-fewest among the League’s top 25 scorers; no other NHL forward averaged more time on ice (21:13) in 2019-20 while taking fewer penalties. The 24-year-old Halifax, N.S., native – who earlier this week was named a 2019-20 Ted Lindsay Award finalist – is a Lady Byng Trophy finalist for the first time. He is seeking to become the third player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to win the award, following O’Reilly in 2013-14 and Joe Sakic in 2000-01.
Auston Matthews - Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews finished third in the NHL with a career-high 47 goals, one behind Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy co-winners Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak, while also topping the Maple Leafs with a career-best 80 points in 70 games (47-33—80). Matthews – who added personal highs and ranked among the top 10 in the League in shots on goal (4th; 290) and power-play goals (t-6th; 12) – also established a career-low with eight penalty minutes, tied for the fewest among the NHL’s top 100 scorers. He did so while sharing second place in the League in takeaways (78) and ranking eighth among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,467:52), also both personal bests. The 22-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native – who captured the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2016-17 – is vying to become the eighth different player to win the Lady Byng Trophy with the Maple Leafs and just the second to do so in the expansion era (since 1967-68), following Alexander Mogilny in 2002-03.
Ryan O’Reilly - St. Louis Blues
O’Reilly led the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues with 12-49—61 in 71 games to power the team to the highest points percentage in the Western Conference (.662; 42-19-10). He topped the NHL in both face-off wins (880) and face-offs taken (1,556), ranking 10th among qualifying players with a 56.6 face-off winning percentage. O’Reilly received five minor penalties (10 PIM), the sixth time in his 11 NHL seasons he has totaled 10 or fewer penalty minutes, while ranking seventh in the League in takeaways (69) and 10th among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,460:45). The 29-year-old Clinton, Ont., native – who previously won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2013-14 (w/ COL) – is a finalist for the award for the third straight season, following second-place finishes in both 2018-19 (w/ STL) and 2017-18 (w/ BUF). He is looking to become the fourth player to capture the trophy with the Blues, joining Phil Goyette (1969-70), Brett Hull (1989-90) and Pavol Demitra (1999-2000).
Here are the finalists for the Bill Masterton Trophy, in alphabetical order:
Stephen Johns - Dallas Stars
Johns returned to NHL action in 2019-20 after being sidelined for 22 months due to post-traumatic headaches, an ordeal he described to The Athletic. Following a two-game conditioning stint with Texas of the American Hockey League, Johns returned against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 18 (his previous NHL game was against the Wild on March 29, 2018) and played 18:29. The 28-year-old defenseman went on to appear in 17 games during the regular season, recording 2-3—5. A season highlight was scoring his first goal since returning with his parents in attendance at Madison Square Garden. “Throughout this whole process, it wasn’t just me going through hell,” Johns told the Dallas Morning News. “As parents, they want to help and for them to be here and see that, I probably know my dad was for sure crying. I’m pretty excited to go see them and give them both a big hug.”
Oskar Lindblom - Philadelphia Flyers
In December of 2019, Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, by leading specialists at the University of Pennsylvania and started treatment that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. Prior to the diagnosis, Lindblom was in the midst of a breakout campaign, recording 11 goals, which was tied for the team lead at the time, and 18 points (11G-7A) in 30 games. The hockey world celebrated on July 2 when the 23-year-old forward rang a ceremonial bell at Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to signify the end of his treatments. “He’s handled it much better than I probably would,” Flyers teammate Kevin Hayes told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s inspiring, and he puts a smile to your face and makes you realize your problems aren’t as serious as they seem to be.”
Bobby Ryan - Ottawa Senators
Ryan, 33, left the Senators to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program on Nov. 20. He returned to practice with the team in early February and pledged to share his story publicly in an effort to help and inspire others facing similar challenges. In his first home game after returning to the lineup Ryan tallied a hat trick, was named the game’s First Star and received multiple standing ovations in a 5-2 win over Vancouver on Feb. 27. “Because I’ve been open and candid about that, I think people have looked at me and said, ‘There’s a very relatable person,’” Ryan told the Ottawa Sun. “Through my family stuff and now with alcohol issues, I’ve never hid from it and I’ve always said, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to do it in the public eye and I’m going to have to be candid with it.”