A comeback story that began in Charlotte could result in a significant honor.
The NHL named former Checkers center Manny Malhotra one of three nominees for the Masterton Trophy, which honors the player best exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, on Wednesday. The league will present the trophy as part of its award ceremony in Las Vegas on June 24.
Malhotra, a 33-year-old veteran of 933 career NHL games, began the year on a professional tryout contract with the Checkers after his previous club, the Vancouver Canucks, was unwilling to allow him to play on following a significant eye injury.
After joining the Checkers on the eve of their first game on Oct. 4, Malhotra played eight games for the Checkers while making impressions with his professionalism, leadership and one particular act that went above and beyond anything expected by any teammate, let alone one whose stay was always likely to be temporary. Following his AHL stint, Malhotra signed a one-year deal with Carolina, where he went on to score 13 points and record the second-best faceoff percentage (59.4) among all NHL players while serving as an alternate captain.
In attempting to become the second Checker to earn postseason honors in the NHL (Justin Faulk earned a spot on the 2011-12 All-Rookie Team), Malhotra will contend with Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils, whose prolific career continued with a team-leading 67 points at age 42, and Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers, who returned to hockey after taking a year away to care for his wife, who ultimately passed away from liver cancer in January of 2013.