The NHL continues to release their award finalists, this time announcing the three nominees for the Norris Trophy. The award is given out to the top defenseman “who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Last year’s winner was Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames.
Carlson comes with a built-in argument in his favor, given the outstanding offensive performance he put together this season. After scoring 70 points in 80 games last year and finishing fourth in Norris voting, he improved those totals again to lead all defensemen with 75 points in just 69 games. He was 12th in the entire league in scoring when the season shut down, and ten points ahead of the next highest defenseman (Josi). That pure offensive dominance will make him a solid contributor, but as always he comes with questions about his defensive ability. Despite scoring 49 of his points at even-strength, Carlson was still just a +12 on the year and had the worst possession numbers of the three finalists. Given the still relatively subjective nature of judging defensive impact, Carlson’s candidacy is not a sure thing even with his offensive numbers.
Josi meanwhile comes with an even longer history of Norris expectations, receiving votes for the award in each of the last five seasons and coming in the top-7 in four of those. The Predators captain recorded 65 points in 69 games and had extremely strong possession numbers on the year—the best of his career in fact. Among the major individual awards, the Norris, in particular, has a reputation that it is given “eventually” to a player long-deserving. Josi could be that candidate this season after such a strong campaign. That’s not to say he isn’t deserving, as any Predators fan will tell you how much the team relied on him this season to create offense when the rest of the group was struggling.
Hedman meanwhile is the only one of the three finalists with a Norris win already under his belt, taking home the award in 2018. The backbone of the Lightning team, Hedman managed to record 55 points in 66 games and was once again one of the most consistent defensive players in the league. If you were crafting a defenseman in a lab, you might end up with something looking similar to the 6’6″ Swede, who has been a finalist or winner in each of the last three seasons. Hedman may have not had the offensive seasons of Carlson or Josi, but his reputation on the defensive side of the puck will help him secure plenty of votes once again.