Ray Emery, Daymond Langkow and Ian Laperriere named Masterton Trophy finalists; Who wins?

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In most cases, the NHL hands out awards for league leaders in statistical categories or players who are considered at the top of their class in one way or another. The Bill Masterton Trophy is a little different, though. The award is named after a former Minnesota North Stars player who became the only player to die on the ice during an NHL game in 1968.

As a tribute to Masterton, the league awards this trophy to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” The league announced its three finalists for the 2010-11 season today: Ray Emery, Daymond Langkow and Ian Laperriere.

This year’s nominees didn’t get to play many games, but all three players’ recovery processes are inspiring. Emery courageously fought through a career-threatening injury to help the Anaheim Ducks make the playoffs and also played five postseason games for Anaheim. Langkow also fought through what was the thought to be a career-ending injury from last season, as he improbably managed to play in one game, recording an assist for the Calgary Flames. Lapperriere didn’t get to play this season, but his own recovery from grisly facial injuries in 2010 is a source of inspiration for his Philadelphia Flyers teammates.

Last season’s winner was goalie Jose Theodore. Here’s his story, via NHL.com:

Last season, Washington goalie Jose Theodore, who played in 2010-11 for the Minnesota Wild, was the Masterton recipient. The goalie’s son, Chace, died during the previous summer because of complications stemming from his premature birth. Despite dealing with grief, Theodore had one of the best seasons of his career, going 20-0-3 in his final 23 appearances. He also set up a charity, “Saves for Kids,” which benefits the NICU unit of the hospital where Chace spent his entire brief life.

Now that you’ve read about last year’s winner, it’s time to decide who you think should win for 2010-11. Vote in the poll below to share your choice.