Kevan Miller has not taken to the ice in an actual NHL matchup since way back in April 2019, with four procedures on the same knee — held over an 11-month span — grinding the rugged defenseman’s playing career to a halt.
But even after being dealt a tough hand, such misfortune hasn’t kept Miller away from the rink — as the veteran blueline has spent most of the past year grinding through rehab and on-ice work in an effort to rejoin his teammates.
For his continued drive toward getting back on the ice and putting these ailments in the rearview, Miller was voted as the Bruins' nominee for the 2019-20 Masterton Trophy as voted on by the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The Masterton Trophy, introduced in 1967-68, is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.
Miller was sorely missed during last spring’s Stanley Cup run, suffering a vertical fracture in Boston’s penultimate game of the regular season against the Wild on April 4. Despite a grim prognosis and a stint of intensive rehab, Miller actually managed to put himself in the conversation for rejoining his teammates during the Stanley Cup Final — traveling down to North Carolina for Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Hurricanes.
But while doing some off-ice rehab work, Miller’s progress was dashed when he suffered a vertical fracture to the same kneecap — ending his season for good and putting all parties back at the drawing board.
Given the amount of damage sustained, Miller was not expected to get the green light to return at the start of training camp in September, but continued to make steady progress — with a potential return in December on the table before another setback prompted an additional procedure.
Undeterred, Miller was once again back on the ice at Warrior Ice Arena just before the season’s pause, but yet another complication and surgery — this one held in March — ruined any chance of the veteran returning to the lineup following this extended break.
“Kevan’s just had some setbacks,” Don Sweeney said of Miller. “I don’t believe at this time that it will be in his best interest to try and ramp up in a short span with the hopes of playing this year. Our intentions are for Kevan to be 100% healthy so he can resume when we start the next season.”
Speaking during a virtual town hall last month, Miller noted that he has been rehabbing from home since the season’s pause — but remained hopeful that he many more years left in the tank. The veteran skater will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this current campaign.
“As far as far as hockey and rehab goes, I’m still rehabbing,” Miller said. “I was in on a good trajectory there, skating and whatnot and then I had a setback. I think Sweens kind of talked about a little bit, so I’m just coming off surgery that I had eight weeks ago. So timing-wise, things have been good for me. I’m off crutches now and walking around again. So things are good. Most of my rehab has been done in Boston. I’ve been here ever since."
Four Bruins have won the Masterton Trophy since its inception back in 1967 — Charlie Simmer (1985-86), Gord Kluzak (1989-90), Cam Neely (1993-94) and Phil Kessel (2006-07).
Here’s the full list of Masterton Trophy nominees for the 2019-20 season:
Miller will certainly not be the only Bruin that will be in the running to take home some significant hardware this season. Boston has already received a number of awards in 2019-20 with the regular season finally shuttered — with the club winning the Presidents' Trophy with the most points accrued (100) through 70 games played.
Individually, David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin (48 goals apiece) will share the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, handed out annually to the player(s) with the most tallies at the end of the regular season. Meanwhile, both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak will take home the William M. Jennings Trophy — handed out each year to the goaltender(s) "having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it" during the regular season.
Pastrnak is the first Bruin to take home the "Rocket" Richard Trophy, while Rask/Halak are the first B's duo in net to win the Jennings Trophy since Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez took home the honors back in 2008-09.
Given that a pair of Bruins were projected as finalists for both the Hart and Selke Trophies during the PHWA's Midseason Awards list back in January, there stands a good chance for at least a couple more B's players will be represented at the NHL Awards — whenever the ceremony does in fact take place.
While we'll take a few deeper dives into these individual award races going forward, here's a quick look at which awards Bruins fans should be keeping tabs on.
Hart Trophy - to the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.
Bruins player in the running: David Pastrnak
Likely finalist? 50%