Karlsson Nominated for the Masterton Trophy and Sens Sign Driedger, Dzingel to ELCs

To the surprise of no one, the Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) nominated Erik Karlsson as the Ottawa Senators’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

The Masterton is awarded each year to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

Erik Karlsson’s story is not new nor should his nomination come as a surprise.

Last February, the defenceman was involved in a gruesome incident with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Matt Cooke in which Cooke’s skate inadvertently came down on Karlsson’s left leg – slicing through 70-percent of his Achilles tendon.

The event even spawned Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to hire specialists to conduct a “forensic investigation” to look into the intent of the act and determine which preventative measures can be taken to prevent this kind of injury in the future. Although the investigation was relatively was relatively unproductive, it did generate some raised eyebrows and chuckles around the league.

2013 was a difficult year for Erik Karlsson, but don’t take my word for it, take his.

His tweet eventually culminated in a sit down interview with Per Bjurman for an exclusive story that ran in Aftonbladet and chronicled the off-ice difficulties that Karlsson has experienced over the past year. From losing his best friends and closest teammates, to getting divorced, to his recuperation from the Achilles injury, 2013 was a pretty shitty year for Erik Karlsson.

He admitted in that same Aftonbladet interview that his Achilles still does not feel like it is back to normal, so considering the circumstances, what he has been able to accomplish on the ice in this 2013/14 season is pretty remarkable.

Karlsson has played in every one of Ottawa’s games this season and although he trails Nashville’s Shea Weber by one goal for the NHL lead amongst defencemen, his 20 goals this season have set an Ottawa Senators franchise record. His 70 points not only give him the scoring lead amongst NHL defencemen, but he has a 13 point gap on Duncan Keith – who sits second with 57 points.

Whether he has done enough to warrant Norris Trophy consideration remains to be seen, but it does not take away from the fact that of the organization’s injured players last season, the player the Senators needed to bounce-back the most was Erik Karlsson.

To his credit, he has done that and as a reward, it would not be that surprising to see him garner some Masterton Trophy buzz.

Sens Sign Driedger

Signing prospects to entry-level contracts (ELCs) seems to be the flavour of the day for the Ottawa Senators.

Hours after inking collegiate free agent Garrett Thompson to a one-year ELC yesterday, the organization announced that it inked goaltender Chris Driedger to a three-year ELC.

Driedger was the Senators’ third round selection (76th) in the 2012 draft, so seeing him ink his first pro contract was more of formality than anything else.

From the press release:

Driedger, 19, was the Senators’ third-round selection (76th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, which was held in Pittsburgh. He recently completed his fourth season of major junior hockey with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, ranking fifth among league goaltenders in save percentage (.918) and tying for seventh in wins (28).

The 6-3, 200-pound netminder has earned a record of 94-46-15 including eight shutout victories over 170 career WHL contests with the Hitmen and Tri-City Americans. On Jan. 31, he became only the sixth goaltender in WHL history to be credited with a goal when scored one of Calgary’s two markers in an eventual 5-2 loss to the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C.

A Winnipeg native, Driedger surpassed current Los Angeles Kings’ goaltender Martin Jones to become the Hitmen’s all-time saves leader when he made his 3,375th stop for the club in Calgary’s 7-4 home win over Brandon on Feb. 1.

Like Thompson, Driedger has been assigned to Binghamton and the expectation is that he will be able to get into some games. Veteran goaltender Nathan Lawson is still unavailable after sustaining a lower body injury for the Ottawa Senators.

Dzingel Inks ELC

Dzingel left Ohio State after his junior season and in his three years there, he assembled quite the impressive collegiate resume that culminated with him being one of the ten finalists for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award that is presented to the “most outstanding collegiate hockey player in the United States”.

Considering the Baby Sens have lost Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to their parent club, they can certainly afford use whatever offensive contributions players like Dzingel and Thompson can offer.

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