Ilya Samsonov has been named the Leafs’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy

Photo credit:© Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
2 months ago
Ilya Samsonov has been through it all this season and it’s exactly why he has earned the honour of being Toronto’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
This comes on the day all 32 teams are to name their nominees for the award which the winner will be announced during the awards show in June’s The trophy is awarded an NHL player that demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication to hockey.
Perseverance and dedication are certainly the categories Samsonov fall under because he has gone through quite the emotional roller coaster this season.
It all began in the offseason when he saw the GM who took a chance on him leave the organization while a new face arrived which led to the two parties going to a salary arbitration. Although he did not take things personally, the fact the contract had to be decided by a third party surely must have taken a hit to his confidence along with only getting a one-year deal.
That set the tone for rough start to the season where his numbers took a considerable step back from the prior campaign. Through the first 15 starts spread across three months, Samsonov posted a 5-2-6 record along with a .862 SV%, a shutout, and a 3.94 GAA. His play was hindering the Leafs’ chances of winning games and he only got worse as time went on.
He was at his lowest point in December when he had three consecutive games of allowing five goals or more, one of which he didn’t even see to the end of the game. That stretch of futility was enough to force the Leafs to do the unthinkable in placing him on waivers on New Years Eve.
Samsonov did clear waivers the next day but instead of being assigned to the Marlies, the Leafs opted to allow him some time away from the rink to clear his head and get a mental reset. After 10 days away from the team, he was brought back up with many fans skeptical his ability to bounce back given how bad things were to start the campaign. But it did not take long for him to prove them wrong by regaining his form.
In 21 starts since the calendar flipped to 2024, he has a record of 16-4-1, two shutouts, a .905 SV%, and a 2.71 GAA. Not only were these numbers good enough to get him back to his overall totals to around league average, but he has been playing like one of the best goalies in the world in that stretch.
This has resulted in him being considered by many to be the Game 1 starter for the playoffs, which is something no one would have wanted back in late December. Combined with Martin Jones slowing down after holding the fort during a tumultuous stretch and Joseph Will not fully recovered from his high ankle sprain, it is clear that Samsonov took the opportunity given to him after the reset and has run with it.
Even if he doesn’t win the Masterton Trophy, the fact he was nominated is a well deserved honour given all that he has been through this year. A goalie who went from being virtually unplayable to the clear cut starter is a great story of perseverance and dedication to bouncing back from major setbacks. A lot of credit has to go to the Leafs management for helping him get into the right mind frame during that time away, but it was Samsonov himself that had to work his way out of that deep hole and he has done that and then some.
Apart from Samsonov, Bobby McMann and Ryan Reaves would have also been good candidates for the award.
McMann started the season as a regular healthy scratch and was even on waivers at one point, but he was able to find a spark during a game against the Blues where he recorded a hat trick. Since then, he has been a mainstay in the lineup and spent the majority of his time in the top six alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. As for Reaves, he was struggling to find his footing with the Leafs as he was a step behind the play and did not contribute much apart from the occasional hit and fight. After missing over a month of action with a knee injury, he has since been a rejuvenated player and has been a more reliable fourth liner where he has been a more noticeable contributor and even chipper in some points.
Even still, Samsonov has no doubt earned this honour for the Leafs’ pick for the Masterton Trophy and it is a testament to how far he has come regardless of whether or not he actually wins it.

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