Capitals winger Brett Connolly has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced on Friday.
The Masterton Trophy recognizes perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.
Connolly has scored a career-high 15 goals this season, despite missing 14 games as a healthy scratch earlier in the campaign.
The 24-year-old's breakout season comes nearly seven years after the Lightning selected him sixth overall. It also comes nine months after the Bruins chose not retain his negotiating rights.
The Caps snapped up Connolly after Boston cut him loose, signing him to a one-year, $850,000 contract.
After a "rough" start to his tenure in Washington, Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his forward combos and Connolly ended up as the left wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky.
The trio quickly found some chemistry—and Connolly finally found the groove and comfort level he had always sought.
“It’s been good,” Connolly said after practice on Friday. “It was a little bit of a rough start. But after Christmas, when me Lars and Burky were put together, we kinda went on a little run, the team was playing well and it just kinda bled on for the rest of the year.”
Connolly added: “I’m obviously very happy with the way the year has gone.”
Trotz said he’s been pleasantly surprised by Connolly’s goal production, particularly since he doesn't play a whole lot (10:49 per game).
“He’s given us quality minutes,” Trotz said. “Our scouts identified him as a guy who could contribute offensively. How much, I didn’t know. If you had said Brett Connolly is going to give you 15 goals coming into the season, I’d say, ‘We’ll take it, sure.’”
Connolly will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.
“I would love to be back,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of things that can happen from now until the end of the playoffs. A lot of guys are up on their contracts [and] we all have one goal and that’s to ultimately win at the end of the year. We’ll worry about where we’re going to be next year when we’re all done. Hopefully with the Cup.”
Each of the PHWA’s 30 chapters submits a Masterton nominee.
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