The NHL continues to release its award finalists, this time announcing the three nominees for the Norris Trophy. The award is given to the first defender “who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest ability throughout 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 defender has become one of the most dynamic two-way players in the entire league. A third-round pick from the Calgary Flames, Fox was originally traded to Hurricanes Carolina and then to the Rangers when there was doubt he would stay out of college. New York thanked his lucky stars for this decision after letting him lose and watching Fox score 47 points in 55 games while meeting nearly 25 minutes into the night. Perhaps the most impressive part is the defensive improvement he has shown this season, routinely breaking a cycle and quickly getting the puck out of his zone. Fox now has 89 points in 125 NHL games and appears to be at the top of the Rangers ’depth chart for a decade.
You can’t talk about the young defensive phenomena without mentioning Makar, who has been even better in his first two seasons. The 22-year-old has 94 points in 101 games and comes out on top in a Calder Trophy campaign. Although his total score was slightly lower than Fox’s, it was only really because Makar was missing time with an injury. His 44 points in 44 games have made him the only qualified defender with a point-per-game ratio this season (sorry, Brogan Rafferty). Since the moment Makar weighed the ice for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 playoffs it has been a marker of difference – he also scored the game’s winning goal in that first game – and a Norris has to come soon.
It might not come this season though, since there’s an old hand standing in the way of the two young gunmen. Hedman has been a finalist for five years right now, winning the award in 2018 as the best in the league. He took home Conn Smythe last year when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup and is generally considered to be the best defender in the league. Sure, that may change with these young players getting better every day and Hedman’s defensive game showing little inconsistency, but the 30-year-old is still a force every time he touches the ice. In a season where he also dealt injuries, Hedman totaled 45 points in 54 games and averaged his seventh ice time in the league at 25:03.