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Top 5 Candidates for the 2022-23 Norris Trophy

Can Cale Makar win the Norris Trophy again, or will someone else fight their way to the top? Here's a look at five of the top candidates for the top defenseman award this year.
Cale Makar

In just three NHL seasons, Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche has made his case for the title of best defenseman of his generation.

He claimed the Calder Trophy in his rookie year. Last season, he added a Conn Smythe, a Stanley Cup and a Norris Trophy.

Officially, the Norris is awarded to "to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position." And while repeat winners are rare in today's NHL, it's his trophy to lose heading into the 2022-23 season.

Here's a look at Makar's case for the award, and four contenders whose names could also be in the mix.

1. CALE MAKAR - COLORADO AVALANCHE

With his smooth skating, deceptive deking and Grade A hockey sense, Makar has been serving up highlight-reel plays since he first made the jump to the NHL in the 2019 playoffs.

Makar turns 24 on October 30, and there's every reason to believe that he can still get better. He's the clear Norris favorite this season.

If Makar does take home a second-straight award, he'll become the NHL's first repeat Norris honoree since Nicklas Lidstrom won three in a row between 2006 and 2008.

Just one small caveat: Makar will be coming into the new year following the shortest off-season break of his career. Prior to 2021-22, he had never played more than 72 games in a season — and that was the stop-and-start 2019-20 campaign that included the four-and-a-half-month COVID pause.

That being said, Makar certainly didn't wilt as last season rolled on. He followed up his 89 points in 77 regular-season games with another 29 in 20 games in the playoffs, and was the unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.

For a mere mortal, fatigue could become a factor. To date, Makar has transcended such limitations.

2. ROMAN JOSI - NASHVILLE PREDATORS

The Norris Trophy voting results were closer than you might think. Makar took home the prize with 1,631 total points, but Roman Josi was right behind him at 1,606. And Josi actually held the edge in first-place votes, with 98 compared to 92 for Makar.

Makar led all defensemen with 28 goals, but Josi's 96 points were historic — the most from a blueliner since Phil Housley put up 97 with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93. The Nashville Predators captain also led his team in scoring for the third straight year. He embodies what it means to be a "most valuable" player.

Dating back to 2014-15, Josi now has four top-five finishes in Norris voting, and took home the trophy in 2020. Expect to see him in the mix as a finalist again this season.

3. JACCOB SLAVIN - CAROLINA HURRICANES

The top Norris Trophy candidates tend to be the NHL's highest-scoring defensemen. And after hitting a career-high with 35 points last season, Jaccob Slavin is decidedly NOT that. 

So why is he here?

The Carolina Hurricanes are a defensive powerhouse, and Slavin is at the center of that efficiency. He's a do-everything blueliner who helps prevent opposing scoring chances, makes a great first pass and uses his 6'3" frame to win puck battles — all while working within the framework of the rulebook.

In the 2020-21 season, Slavin took just one minor penalty in 52 games and was named only the fourth defenseman in NHL history to win the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. And that was no fluke: last year, he logged 10 penalty minutes and finished second in Byng voting.

Slavin has also elevated his defense partners, whether that's been Dougie Hamilton or, last season, Tony DeAngelo. This year, he's set to skate with arguably his most talented partner yet. Brent Burns is the 2017 Norris winner, who, despite turning 37 in March, has not yet shown a dropoff in his game.

Carolina is once again expected to challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference. Slavin and Burns are poised to form a dynamic duo that will be hard for Norris voters to ignore.

4. VICTOR HEDMAN - TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

The Tampa Bay Lightning have stepped off their Stanley Cup throne, but Victor Hedman remains a beast of a blueliner. He has been a Norris finalist for the last six straight seasons, with a win in 2018.

Hedman turns 32 in December but remains at the top of his game. Last season, his 20 goals and 85 points were both career highs. He didn't miss a game. His 25:05 of regular-season average ice time was the second-highest of his career. And he chipped in another 19 points in the playoffs.

After Ryan McDonagh left for Nashville as the Lightning's latest salary-cap casualty this summer, Hedman's already-vital role will be magnified even more this season. Watch for the big Swede to play his way into the Norris conversation for a seventh consecutive year.

5. THOMAS CHABOT - OTTAWA SENATORS

If we handed out an award for the team that has improved the most on paper during the offseason, the Ottawa Senators would definitely be in the mix. If they realize that potential and challenge for a playoff spot in the tough Atlantic Division, Thomas Chabot should garner Norris Trophy attention.

Now 25, Ottawa's first-round pick from 2015 is the anchor of the new guard — the longest-serving active Senator with 313 games under his belt and an important leadership group member. Chabot has impressive two-way skills and is the kind of strong skater who excels in today's game, logging big minutes along the way.

With explosive scorer Alex DeBrincat and wily veteran Claude Giroux joining an already dangerous core up front, Chabot's point totals should also spike as the Senators enjoy plenty more attention from fans and media this season.

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