Ilya Samsonov is making a strong case to be in contention for this season’s Masterton Trophy

Nick Alberga
28 days ago
From first half cast-off to second-half success story, it’s been a whirlwind 2023-24 campaign for Ilya Samsonov.
Incredibly, it’s been only 70 short days since the Leafs made the polarizing call to place the 27-year-old Russian netminder on waivers. It was the right decision, too. From the season opener against Montreal to the end of December, he couldn’t stop a beach ball.
In fact, at the time of his demotion to the AHL, Samsonov was 5-2-6 and boasted a career worst in both save percentage (.862) and goals-against average (3.94). The writing was on the wall.
Fast forward to the present. The 2015 Washington Capitals first rounder is a different man, and most importantly to the Maple Leafs organization, he’s a different goalie. In 15 appearances since being called from the AHL on January 10th, the pending unrestricted free agent has registered a 12-3-0 record. Furthermore, he’s tallied a scintillating 2.37 goals-against average and .911 save percentage to go along with one shutout.
The Undertaker sit-up GIF personified.
With 18 games remaining in the regular season, a strong case can currently be made for Samsonov, who again was seemingly dead to rights just a few short months ago, to start game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Masterton Trophy has entered the chat.

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Any way you slice it, Samsonov defying the odds to come all the way back to respectability exemplifies the quality of perseverance. Mental health is no joke, and in the darkest moment of his NHL career, with the support of the people around him, he was able to push through.
The story writes itself.
At the very least, there’s no question that he should be considered for the prestigious award. On a yearly basis, there are a plethora of players who are and have been deserving of the honour. This year is no different. Since 1967, the Bill Masterton Trophy Memorial Trophy has been awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
Whether he gets considered for the award or not, Ilya Samsonov deserves a lot of credit and praise for turning things around this season.
It’s a remarkable story —and should be celebrated as such.

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