After announcing the Vezina and Selke finalists over the last two days, the NHL continued their award nominations with the Norris Trophy for best defenseman. Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman and P.K. Subban are the three finalists for the 2017-18 season.
As always, the Norris brings with it heated debate over how the finalists are selected. Some fans feel as though offensive performance is weighted too heavily, but this year may change that perception some. The top four point leaders among defensemen—John Carlson, Brent Burns, John Klingberg and Shayne Gostisbehere—are all absent, though all three of the finalists had at least 59 points. Subban especially will be questioned because of his notoriety and offensive production, as even on his own team there was another potential candidate in Roman Josi (who recorded 53 points in just 75 games).
All three are no stranger to Norris voting, with Doughty and Subban each having won in the past. Hedman finished third in voting last season, and could have the best shot at it this year. Not only did he lead the candidates in scoring, but finished with the best +/- rating, registered the most hits and fewest giveaways. There has also been speculation that voting tends to lean towards star players that haven’t won it yet, which would give Hedman the edge, if only slightly.
There were several other candidates that could have been selected. Many will point to Seth Jones in Columbus, as he and Zach Werenski formed one of the most dynamic pairs in the league. He will certainly finish with some votes and is on a strong development path towards winning the award one day. Alex Pietrangelo was one of the leaders through the first part of the season, but faltered as the Blues did in the second half. His game isn’t nearly as flashy or noticeable, which likely contributes to him fading into the background of the race.
Never to be forgotten is Erik Karlsson, who got off to a horrendous start but played well down the stretch for the Ottawa Senators. Finishing with 62 points in 71 games, Karlsson registered more than 50 assists for the fifth time in his career. Had there been more team success, he certainly would have been in more conversations for best defenseman.
We won’t know who took home the 2017-18 Norris until the NHL Awards ceremony in Vegas on June 20th, but we’ll continue to find out the finalists for other awards over the next few days. Tomorrow is the Lady Byng, for “sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”