The National Hockey League continued to announce 2021 NHL Award finalists on Wednesday with the three candidates for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. The Norris Trophy honor's the defenseman who "demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position," as selected by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
The finalists for the 2021 Norris Trophy are New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar.
While Fox was able to put up an exceptional rookie campaign in the 2019-20 season with 42 points (8+34) in 70 games, his second season in the NHL was even more of a breakout year in New York.
The 23-year-old ended up finishing second in league scoring among defensemen with 47 points (5+42) in 55 games. Fox only finished one point behind Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie for the league lead in points for defensemen. If he had played a full 82-game season with the Rangers, Fox was on pace for 69 points (7+62) in 81 games played.
Following his rookie season, Fox just missed out on being a finalist for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, coming fourth in league voting. In Year 2 in the league, he ends up being a finalist for his first Norris Trophy.
Fox becomes the Rangers’ first defenseman to be named a finalist for the Norris Trophy since Hall of Famer Brian Leetch when he won the award for a second time in 1997. Fox can also become the fourth defenseman in franchise history to take home the Norris.
Unfortunately for the Rangers this season, the team just missed out on the playoffs after a 27-23-6 record and a fifth place finish in the East Division. Following the year, the team also underwent some massive organizational changes with the firing of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton, as well as head coach David Quinn.
This is the fifth-straight nomination for Hedman as a top-three finalist for the Norris Trophy. However, he only has one Norris Trophy win back in 2018, as he's finished third in voting in the other three seasons of consideration.
The 30-year-old blue liner was able to duplicate his impressive rate of production from the 2019-20 season and then some, as he was on pace to score 13 goals and 53 assists for 66 points in 80 games played. His 45 points (9+36) in 54 games happened to land him tied for third in defensive scoring in the NHL, while he also finished seventh in the league with an average ice-time of 25:03.
For Hedman, his fifth-consecutive finalist nod for the Norris Trophy is the longest such steak in the NHL since former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was a finalist for six-straight seasons from 1998 through 2003.
The big Swedish defenseman has become one of the best in his position in the NHL since entering the league in the 2009-10 season after being drafted second overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. In 816 games through this point of his career, Hedman has put up 518 points (114+404) and has been named a four-time NHL All-Star.
As for the defending Stanley Cup champions, they managed to put up a respectable 36-17-3 regular season record, which resulted in a third place finish in the Central Division.
Tampa Bay is already on a path towards repeating as Stanley Cup champions again in 2021, as they took care of business in the first and second round of the playoffs. The Lightning first took care of their interstate rival Florida Panthers in six games, followed by a five-game take down of the Carolina Hurricanes, capped off with a 2-0 win on Tuesday in Raleigh.
The Lightning will await the winner of the series between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins in the semifinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As for Makar, the 22-year-old was able to build off a solid rookie 2019-20 season that saw him win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.
Makar shined once ag