By Steven McGoey
We're halfway through the 2021-22 season and the Norris Trophy race for the NHL’s best defenceman looks a lot like it did last year, with the three defending finalists once again at the top of the list.
With defenders scoring at historic rates and players like John Carlson and Charlie McAvoy also having stellar seasons, the race should come down to the wire.
Here are the mid-season power rankings for the Norris Trophy.
1. Cale Makar - Colorado Avalanche
The 23-year-old is revolutionizing the position in front of our eyes, with 18 goals in 40 games, he is on pace for 37, which would be the most in a season since Paul Coffey scored 37 in 1984-85, and would make Makar the first defender to score at least 30 since Mike Green in 2008-09.
Currently second among all defensemen with an absurd 62.9 expected goals percentage, Makar and the Avalanche have dominated possession and outscored opponents 88-37 when he is on the ice. Makar and usual defense partner Devon Toews are among the best pairs in the league at limiting scoring chances against.
One of the best skaters in the league, Makar is mesmerizing to watch with the puck and always seems to make something out of nothing, whether that comes when walking the blueline or scoring highlight-reel goals in overtime.
Makar is currently the Norris Trophy favorite on the majority of betting sites and has a good chance of staying there for the rest of the season.
2. Victor Hedman - Tampa Bay Lightning
The 2018 Norris Trophy winner has been a finalist for the award the last five seasons and is almost a certainty to make that six this season.
The 31-year-old is having his best season analytically since his Norris winning campaign, producing a 58.5 expected goals percentage and 100 scoring chances while averaging a monster 25:19 time on ice per game.
Hedman is tied with Adam Fox for the league lead in points by a defenseman with 47, helping the Lightning remain a top-three team in the standings despite a slew of injuries up and down their lineup.
If Makar’s scoring pace comes back down to earth and Hedman has a strong finish to the season, the 2020 Conn Smythe winner could add another trophy to his case.
3. Adam Fox - New York Rangers
Last season’s Norris winner has picked up exactly where he left off, and being third on this list is not an indictment of his play, but goes to show how great Makar and Hedman’s seasons have been.
The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the best passers in the game, racking up 40 assists through 44 games to lead all NHL defensemen.
Despite the Rangers having some trouble as a team limiting offense, they get the majority of the scoring chances while Fox is on the ice, including a 55.38 expected goals percentage as a team, and are outscoring opposing teams 75-41.
Aside from goaltender Igor Shesterkin and his sensational play, Fox has once again been the engine that drives the Rangers on both ends of the ice.
4. Aaron Ekblad - Florida Panthers
After missing the end of last season and the playoffs with a fracture in his left leg, Ekblad has come back better than ever in 2021-22.
The 25-year-old has looked great with defense partner MacKenzie Weegar, making up one of the best defensive pairs in the league. Ekblad’s offensive game has taken a big step upwards, already tying a career-high of 41 points in just 46 games.
The Panthers have dominated possession while he's on the ice and he has helped Florida become one of the best teams in the league at producing high-danger chances.
5. Roman Josi - Nashville Predators
The 2020 Norris Trophy winner is still playing some incredible hockey.
One of the best players in the league at carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and into scoring position, the Predators’ captain has continued to rack up points this season, with 44 in as many games.
The 31-year-old is playing just over 25 minutes per game, and while some of his underlying metrics aren’t as flattering as they have been in past years, Nashville is still outshooting, scoring, and limiting chances against more effectively when the Swiss native is on the ice.
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