The NHL continues to release its 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 Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators.
Get used to seeing Fox’s name here. The 23-year-old defenseman has turned into one of the most dynamic two-way players in the entire league. A third-round pick by the Calgary Flames, Fox was originally traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and then to the Rangers when there were doubts he would sign out of college. New York is thanking its lucky stars for that decision after letting him loose and watching Fox score 47 points in 55 games while logging nearly 25 minutes a night. Perhaps the most impressive part is the improvement defensively he showed this season, routinely breaking up a cycle and quickly getting the puck out of his zone. Fox now has 89 points in 125 NHL games and seems like he’ll be at the top of the Rangers depth chart for a decade.
You can’t talk about young defensive phenoms without mentioning Makar though, who has been even better through his first two seasons. The 22-year-old has 94 points in 101 games and is coming off a Calder Trophy campaign. Though his point total was slightly lower than Fox’s, that was only really because Makar missed time with an injury. His 44 points in 44 games made him the only qualified defenseman with a point-per-game ratio this season (apologies, Brogan Rafferty). From the moment Makar stepped on the ice for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 playoffs he has been a difference-maker—he even scored the game-winning goal in that first match—and a Norris is bound to come before long.
It might not come this season though, as there is an old hand standing in the way of the two young guns. Hedman has been a finalist for five straight years now, winning the award in 2018 as the league’s best. He took home the Conn Smythe last year when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup and is generally regarded as the best defenseman in the league. Sure, that may be changing with these young players improving every day and Hedman’s defensive game showing a little inconsistency, but the 30-year-old is still a force every time he touches the ice. In a season where he also dealt with injuries, Hedman totaled 45 points in 54 games and averaged the seventh-most ice time in the league at 25:03.