The Norris Trophy, like most NHL awards, has been a hot topic this season.
After a highly contested race last season that saw Adam Fox beat out Cale Makar and Victor Hedman, the award for the best defenseman in the league does not have a clear-cut front-runner.
Makar is in the running again, as he is scoring at an all-time rate for a defenseman. Hedman has bounced back after a down year last season and is back to being a dominant two-way defender. And there’s Roman Josi, who may hit 100 points as a defenseman.
There is still plenty of hockey left to decide who takes the honor and a lot can change, but it’s these three horses that are leading the way and should be high up on the voting ballots.
Sporting News makes the case for Makar, Josi and Hedman to win the Norris Trophy.
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Making the case for Cale Makar to win the Norris
Makar is back again in the Norris conversation after finishing as a finalist last year. The 23-year-old defenseman for the Avalanche has been a goal-scoring machine in his third season in the league. His 24 goals rank most among defensemen and he is on pace to become the first defenseman since Mike Green in 2008-09 to hit 30 goals in a single season.
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The 2020 Calder Trophy winner has more goals or just as many as the following forwards: Sidney Crosby, Brayden Point, Joe Pavelski, Nathan MacKinnon, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Tavares and Patrick Kane. All are elite goal scorers that Makar is keeping pace with as a defenseman.
He set a new franchise record for goals in a single season by breaking Sandis Ozolinsh’s mark of 23 in 1996-97. His 73 points rank only second behind Josi when he comes to defenseman.
It’s not all about the offense with Makar either. He’s taking strides to become an elite defender as well. The pairing of him and Devon Toews have quickly become one of the most dominant duos in the league. His 25:29 average time on ice ranks eighth in the league.
But there’s no doubt that when it comes to the Norris, it’s been about the ability to produce on the score sheet, whether you agree with it or not. And at the rate that Makar is producing, it’s hard not to see the honor going his way.
Making the case for Roman Josi to win the Norris
No defenseman has more points in the NHL this season than Josi.
The Predators captain is in top-10 in scoring this season with 81 points in 64 games. He’s tied with Kirill Kaprizov and Nazem Kadri for eighth in the league in that category and his 63 assists trail only Jonathan Huberdeau for first.
Josi is currently on pace to hit 100 points. He would be the first defenseman since Brian Leetch scored 102 points in the 1991-92 season.
He’s been a minute-muncher as well for the Predators, leading the team in time on ice with 25:16, the 11th-highest amount in the league. While Makar and Hedman have a plethora of other elite teammates that can carry the brunt of the load, that’s not the case in Nashville. If Josi isn’t there, the Predators are not in a playoff spot. They are an entirely different team when he is on the ice, with his impact carrying much more value for the Predators than perhaps the other two candidates with their teams.
The 2020 Norris Trophy winner has a great chance at taking home his second one in his career.
Making the case for Victor Hedman to win the Norris
It seems like nearly every year, the words “Norris Trophy” and “Victor Hedman” have become synonymous.
The Lightning defenseman has finished in the top- three of Norris voting for five straight years, winning the prestigious award in 2018. It’s looking likely that he’s going to make it six straight seasons.
Hedman is fourth in points among defensemen with 63 in 65 games. He’s on pace to break his previous career-best mark of 72 points that he set in 2016-17.
For those voters that put a higher emphasis on defense than most, it’s easier to make the case for Hedman. He’s used much more on special teams than Makar or Josi. While all three see time in the power play, Hedman averages 40 seconds more time on the penalty kill per game than Makar (2:03 to 1:23) and nearly a minute and a half more than Josi (0:42).
Hedman will once again be in the conversation by the end of the year, but will he finally break the streak of finalist appearances and win his second?