SAN JOSE -- Center James Sheppard needed more than two years and a fresh start with a new franchise to work his way back to the NHL after tearing up his left knee in an off-season ATV accident while training in Colorado in September 2010.

For his perseverance and hard work along the way, Sheppard has been nominated as the Sharks candidate for the Masterton Award by the San Jose chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The award is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

A first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2006, Sheppard and the Wild had a falling out over the accident and he was traded to the Sharks in July 2011 for a third-round draft pick.

San Jose made the deal knowing that his knee would require additional surgery and what turned out to be another year of rehab. But after missing two full seasons, Sheppard returned to the NHL on Jan. 22 and has played in 30 NHL games, picking up one goal and three assists.

"The path that he's traveled has not been an easy one, but his perseverance and his resiliency has allowed him to get back to the NHL-level," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "There's so many reasons for him to say, 'You know what? I'm throwing my hands in the air. All the cards are stacked against me.' But he didn't do that."

Sheppard indicated Tuesday that he was grateful for all the help he had over the years to reach his goal of returning to the NHL.

"It was an unfortunate accident," he said. "I needed a couple of surgeries and a lot of time to heal, but I had a lot of people in my corner. I give a lot of credit to my family, my friends, all the trainers and physiotherapists and teammates that put up with me in that time. It was one hell of a speed bump, but I'm happy to be over it with everyone behind my back."

Hockey writers in each of the league's 30 cities nominate a player from the team they cover, then vote on an overall winner, who will be announced at an unspecified date during the Stanley Cup playoffs.