Blue Jackets’ Danforth Deserving of Masterton Trophy Nomination

Justin Danforth may not have been the first name to come to mind when discussing the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy candidate prior to his nomination. However, he certainly deserves the honor. The trophy is awarded to the player who, according to the NHL Records website, “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” 

Danforth’s Long Road to the Blue Jackets

Danforth certainly fits that description, especially when it comes to perseverance and dedication to hockey. Prior to reaching the NHL, he played in a total of four professional leagues over the course of five seasons. It took him stints in the American Hockey League, ECHL, Finnish Liiga, and Kontinental Hockey League before he was finally able to earn an opportunity in the NHL with the Blue Jackets this season.

Related: Blue Jackets’ Laine Has Had a Masterton Trophy Worthy Season

The odds have always been against Danforth, even during his time at Sacred Heart University. Prior to this season, a player from Sacred Heart had never played in the NHL. He is now their sole alumnus to make it to the highest level of hockey in North America. He took a path that many players wouldn’t have continued down. It would’ve been easy to give up on his dream once he moved on to European hockey, but he was able to keep fighting and persevere until he finally was rewarded with his golden ticket.

Justin Danforth Columbus Blue Jackets
Justin Danforth, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following a short stint with the Cleveland Monsters, Danforth made his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 15 as a 28-year-old rookie. Since making his debut, he has become a fixture in the Blue Jackets’ lineup and has since earned a two-year contract extension. He’s been a major asset in the bottom-six, and although he’s not on the scoresheet every night, hitting double digits in goals is certainly a possibility with three games remaining. Considering his path to this point in his career, he’s had a very solid rookie season. He has made a case to become an NHL regular, and while he’s not likely to have much more of a role than he has had this season, he has shown that he can be an effective piece at the top level.

Chances of Winning the Masterton Trophy

Patrik Laine, Gustav Nyquist, and Elvis Merzlikins were all deserving candidates as well, considering what they had been through this season. However, the Columbus chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association felt that the three criteria were best demonstrated over the course of the season by Danforth. His road to the nomination started many years ago when he made his professional debut with the Reading Royals of the ECHL. Since then, he’s had a career that seems more like a movie storyline rather than reality.

While Danforth has an incredible story, he’s likely not one of the favorites to win the Masterton Memorial Trophy this season. With players like Carey Price, Brian Boyle, and Kevin Hayes, just to name a few, also up for the award, it will be a very tight race. Although it would be nice to see Danforth presented with a trophy as a reward for his difficult journey, the fact that he was able to earn a nomination is a major feat on its own.

The longer Danforth’s career goes, the more impressive his road to this point will become. He’s certainly in good company as a nominee for the Masterton Trophy this season, and regardless of if he is able to take the award home, he certainly deserves to be in the running.

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