To mark the completion of the first quarter of the season, which arrived Tuesday, NHL.com is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman.
Two weeks into the season, Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues was the top scoring defenseman in the NHL.
"It's a typo," he said.
Seven weeks into the season, Pietrangelo remains first among defensemen with seven goals, and his 19 points are tied for first with John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars. He's also helped the Blues rank fifth in the League in goals-against per game (2.62) and to the best record in the Western Conference (15-5-1).
For those reasons and more, Pietrangelo is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the League after the first quarter of the season, according to a panel of 18 NHL.com staff members.
Since the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27, Pietrangelo has been given more responsibility. His ice time has gone from 24:50 prior to the trade to 26:23 since. Pietrangelo has 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 41 games since Feb. 28 and has been a key contributor on the power play (14 points).
Video: ARI@STL: Pietrangelo finds the net on wrist shot
"I think there were situations that obviously when [Shattenkirk] left, there were going to be some minutes that were going to be up for grabs and some of those were offensive-situation minutes, whether you're trailing in a game, whether you're on the power play," Blues coach Mike Yeo said in October. "[Pietrangelo] was the guy that rose to that occasion and grabbed a hold of it, and obviously he's taken advantage of it.
"You can see production-wise what he's done. I really want to emphasize that we need him to do those things but also to be the same player in many aspects and many ways that he always has been as far as a real strong defender and a guy that can play against top lines, a guy that can be a difference-maker on each side of the puck."
Not only does Pietrangelo keep opponents' top lines in check, he plays in all situations. He leads the Blues in total ice time (26:12) and shorthanded ice time (58:07), and he is second in power-play ice time (80:13), 10 seconds less than forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
"You feel good being that go-to guy," Pietrangelo said. "I think most people feel better the more they play, especially when you get used to playing those minutes. It's a good opportunity. I figure I can just contribute in the game. I think when you're playing in all situations too, it keeps you engaged, it's easy to feel like you're a part of it."
Pietrangelo received 73 points in the NHL.com vote, including nine first-place votes, and was the only player to appear on all 18 ballots. Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (1-16-17), a two-time Norris Trophy winner and four-time finalist, was second with 61 points (six first-place votes, 17 ballots). Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning (50 points, two first-place votes, 15 ballots), a finalist last season who has 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) this season, finished third. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) received the other first-place vote.
Video: TOR@STL: Pietrangelo scores after nifty stickhandling
"He wants to be the guy that everyone leans on," Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said of Pietrangelo. "He's the leader of the team and he wants to show that on and off the ice. Even in practice, he's one of the hardest-working guys. He puts in his time off the ice. He's had a great start to the year so far. It just shows he's a character guy, he's a great guy in the dressing room. When he goes out there, he does what he does and the rest of the team follows in his footsteps."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 bases): Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, 73 points (nine first-place votes); Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 61 points (six first-place votes); Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, 50 points (two first-place votes); Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings, 33 points (one first-place vote); John Klingberg, Dallas Stars, 14 points; John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 8 points; Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers, 6 points; Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers, 6 points; Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets, 6 points; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 5 points; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, 3 points; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2 points; Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers, 2 points; Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1 point