The NHL continues to publish its award finalists, this time announcing the three nominees for the Norris Trophy. The award is given to the best defender “who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest ability in all aspects at the position.” Last year’s winner something Roman Josi from 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 the Carolina Hurricanes and then the Rangers when there were doubts he would get out of college. New York is thanking its lucky stars for that decision after letting it loose and watching Fox score 47 points in 55 games while clocking in nearly 25 minutes a night. Perhaps the most impressive part is the defensive improvement he showed this season, routinely breaking a cycle and quickly pulling the puck out of his zone. Fox now has 89 points in 125 NHL games and it looks like he will be at the top of the Rangers depth chart for a decade.
However, you can’t talk about young defensive phenomena without mentioning Makar, who has been even better in his first two seasons. The 22-year-old has 94 points from 101 games and is coming off a Calder Trophy campaign. Although his point total was slightly lower than Fox’s, that was only because Makar lost time with injury. His 44 points in 44 games made him the only defense qualified with a points-per-game ratio this season (sorry, Brogan rafferty). From the moment Makar stepped onto the ice for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 playoffs, he has made a difference, even scoring the winning goal in that opening game, and a Norris is likely to come soon.
However, this season may not come as there is a veteran standing in the way of the two youngsters. Hedman has been a finalist for five consecutive years and won 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 regarded as the best defender in the league. Sure, that may be changing with these young players improving every day and Hedman’s defensive game showing a bit of inconsistency, but the 30-year-old remains a force every time he hits the ice. In a season in which he also faced injuries, Hedman totaled 45 points from 54 games and averaged the seventh-longest time on ice in the league at 25:03.