Nick Schultz has been one of the few pleasant surprises in the Flyers' dismal season.
When he was signed in July, the veteran defenseman was slated to be the team's seventh defenseman and figured to only get occasional playing time.
He turned out to arguably be the team's most dependable defenseman, and on Monday the Philadelphia Chapter of the Hockey Writers Association nominated him for the Masterton Award, given to the NHL player who shows the most perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The winner will be announced June 24 as part of award ceremonies in Las Vegas.
Schultz said he didn't have a lot of free-agent options over the summer, so when general manager Ron Hextall called, he was all ears.
"He knew what type of players I was when I played in Minnesota and he was in L.A.," Schultz said. "It was an opportunity to come in here, and I knew what kind of group they had here…and I thought it was an opportunity to come to a great organization.
"Having somebody that liked your game and knew what your game was about (was beneficial)," added Schultz, a stay-at-home defender. "I think he understood what kind of player I was and what I brought on the ice."
Schultz, 32, got a chance to play because Braydon Coburn broke his foot in the opener in Boston. Since then, Schultz has played in every game except for the Jan. 20 matchup against Pittsburgh, which he missed because of an upper-body injury.
Schultz has been a bargain. He signed a one-year deal for $1.25 million on July 2. Last month, he signed a two-year extension for a total of $4.5 million.
"This is the best league in the world, and to get a chance to play here and prove myself again, and to sign for a couple more years is great," he said. "I've been fortunate to play this long."
In 74 games, he has 15 points, a team-high 146 blocked shots and a plus-4 rating. He is a strong contender for the Barry Ashbee Award, given to the team's best defenseman. Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto are also in the running.
"He's continued to be a steady guy for us all year long," coach Craig Berube said.
A year ago, Schultz had a combined five points and a minus-13 rating in 69 games with Edmonton and Columbus.
"I still felt confident in my game and knew I could still play and be effective," he said. "It's harder now. You see guys get pushed out a lot sooner…You've got to work and take care of yourself. I see a lot of guys I played with, they're done or they're over in Europe, so when you get the opportunity, you have to make the most out of it."
In the next two seasons, Schultz is expected to be a mentor to some of the Flyers' defensive prospects who are getting close to reaching the NHL.
Kimmo Timonen became ineligible to be the Flyers' Masterton nominee when he was dealt to Chicago.
Feeling a draft. The Edmonton Oilers will get the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft, according to a draft simulator that was done 100 times by The Inquirer.
NHLlotterysimulator.com has a draft simulator that factors in the teams' chances of getting the top pick, based on their current position in the draft lottery.
Edmonton has just an 11.5 percent chance (third-best in the league) to win the lottery, but it took the top pick 15 out of 100 times when The Inquirer did the simulations.
Buffalo, the NHL's worst team, has a league-best 20 percent chance when the lottery is held in Toronto, reportedly on April 18. But in the simulation, the Sabres won just 12 of 100 times, followed by Toronto (10), New Jersey (10), the Flyers (eight) and Columbus (eight).
Arizona, which has the second-highest chance (13.5 percent) at winning the lottery, won only six of 100 times.
For what it's worth, the first time The Inquirer did the simulation, the Flyers got the No. 1 pick. As it stands now, they have a 6 percent chance to win the lottery.
Center Connor McDavid, whom scouts say is the best prospect since Sidney Crosby, is widely regarded as the No. 1 overall selection.
Breakaways. Luke Schenn (lower-body injury) will likely miss the rest of the season, the Flyers said...The Flyers play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.