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Behind The Numbers

Norris Trophy race could be five-player dead heat

Carlson, Klingberg, Doughty among favorites to win award for best defenseman

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

There's a tight race for the Norris Trophy this season, with more than a dozen contenders. The underlying numbers for each of this season's top defensemen reveal that the race could be among these five favorites:


John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Offensive-minded players have a big advantage in Norris Trophy voting. The winner has finished first or second in scoring among defensemen in seven of the past eight seasons, and in 14 of the past 18. That's a positive sign for Carlson, who leads NHL defensemen with 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 80 games, one more than Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars.

There are three factors working against Carlson's chances: He ranks third among Capitals defensemen in even-strength ice time, averaging 18:25 per game, behind Dmitri Orlov (19:57) and Matt Niskanen (19:21). The Capitals have been outshot 1,416-1,367 for an SAT of minus-49 with Carlson on the ice, and he has received Norris votes once, when he finished 10th in 2014-15.

Video: DAL@WSH: Carlson puts Capitals on top in the 3rd


John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

Klingberg leads NHL defensemen with 57 assists and is tied with Burns for second with 65 points (eight goals, 57 assists) in 80 games. Klingberg's average of 1.34 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranks second behind Erik Karlsson (1.45) of the Ottawa Senators, according to Corsica Hockey (minimum 1,000 minutes).

Statistically, there are no major factors working against Klingberg, who leads the Stars with an average of 19:14 minutes per game at even strength and with an SAT of plus-188. He isn't used to shut down top opponents, and his average of 1:06 minutes per game killing penalties ranks seventh among Stars defensemen, but that may not matter to voters if he is the top scorer.

However, no Norris Trophy winner has come from a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dallas did not qualify this season.

Video: MIN@DAL: Klingberg lights the lamp in 300th NHL game


Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

Among the remaining offensive-minded defensemen, Burns, who won the Norris Trophy last season, has a statistical edge in terms of scoring, shot-based metrics, and previous consideration.

Burns' 65 points (11 goals, 54 assists) in 80 games are three more than Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers and eight more than Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

San Jose has outshot its opponents 1,717-1,455 with Burns on the ice at 5-on-5, for an SAT of plus-262 that ranks No. 7 among defensemen. He has boosted San Jose's share of shot attempts from 48.71 to 54.13 percent for a Relative SAT of plus-5.42 percent that ranks sixth (minimum 50 games). Jones ranks No. 16 with plus-4.54, Gostisbehere ranks No. 39 with plus-2.27, and Krug ranks No. 100 with minus-0.45.

Burns finished third in Norris Trophy voting in 2015-16.

Video: VGK@SJS: Burns finds the top shelf from the point


Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

In cases when the top-scoring defensemen weren't elite in their end, or didn't have a dominant lead in the scoring race, voters looked elsewhere. That situation could apply this season.

During the past 18 seasons, the Norris Trophy wasn't awarded to one of the two leading scorers four times: Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings (2002-03 and 2006-07), Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (2008-09), and Doughty (2015-16). In each case, the winner was a great defensive player who played big minutes, took on top opponents in both zones, killed penalties, and scored at least 50 points.

This description may also apply to Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and to Roman Josi and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators this season, but no player brings every element together like Doughty does.

Doughty ranks seventh among NHL defensemen with 59 points (10 goals, 49 assists) in 80 games, his average of 20:55 at even strength ranks second behind Karlsson (21:57), and his average of 2:48 killing penalties ranks No. 23. His offensive-zone start percentage of 48.61 percent is second-lowest among Kings defensemen.

Despite the tough minutes, Doughty is known for his solid shot-based metrics. He ranks No. 12 among defensemen with a Relative SAT of plus-4.62 percent (minimum 50 games).

Video: LAK@ANA: Doughty dekes, beats Gibson from the circle


Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

In such a close race, a broken ankle may be enough to deny Suter, who is one of three players to receive Norris votes in each of the past eight seasons. Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens are the others.

Suter, who was injured March 31 and is out the remainder of the season, played tough minutes for Minnesota. He ranks third among NHL defensemen with an average of 20:41 at even strength, No. 11 in killing penalties (3:00), has 51 points (six goals, 45 assists) in 78 games, and his Relative SAT of plus-3.93 ranks No. 19 among defensemen (minimum 50 games).

Video: MIN@CHI: Suter beats Forsberg with nifty wrister

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