Center Ryan O'Reilly has been selected as the Buffalo Sabres' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
O'Reilly was chosen in a vote of the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Winger Marcus Foligno finished second in the balloting and goaltender Robin Lehner finished third. Ten players received at least one vote.
O'Reilly's name will be entered against nominees from each of the other 29 NHL teams. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas in June. The award is named for Masterton, a forward for the Minnesota North Stars who died on Jan. 15, 1968, a few days after suffering a head injury during a game.
In his first season with the team after a blockbuster draft-night trade with Colorado, O'Reilly leads all NHL forwards in ice time (21:48 per game). He has 17 goals and leads the Sabres in assists (35), points (52) and faceoff percentage (56.6). O'Reilly was also Buffalo's lone representative to the All-Star Game in Nashville in January.
But more than just the numbers, O'Reilly has become a de facto captain in the locker room and on the ice.
In what General Manager Tim Murray has dubbed "The O'Reilly Practices," the 25-year-old routinely stays on the ice after the club's regular workouts and leads many of his teammates in more extra skills drills after the coaches have left. Pylons, sticks and other barriers fill the ice as the pucks fly, often for another 30-45 minutes. Only when O’Reilly is satisfied with the progress do the others call it a day.
Minnesota goaltender Devin Dubnyk was last year's Masterton Award recipient. The Sabres have had two winners: Don Luce (1975) and Pat LaFontaine (1995)