To mark the three-quarters point of the season, NHL.com is running its fourth installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Norris Trophy, the annual award given to the best defenseman in the NHL as selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.
John Carlson took a back seat to Washington Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin during the forward's quest for 700 goals. But Carlson has been making some history himself.
The defenseman became Washington's all-time leading scorer at the position with an assist in a 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday for his 475th point.
Carlson, who leads NHL defenseman with 72 points (15 goals, 57 assists) in 63 games this season, already has set his NHL career high and has been consistent all season.
"It's always easy to be in the Norris talk when you score a lot of points," said Calle Johansson, the defenseman whose Capitals record Carlson broke. "That's the main thing, unfortunately. But I think [Carlson] is strong, he's a great skater, he cares defensively. He's an all-around great player. I don't see anybody -- maybe Roman Josi (of the Nashville Predators) -- to compete for that award. Those are my two top guys, I think."
Video: Roman Josi in the Norris Trophy Tracker hunt
A panel of 18 NHL.com staffers agreed with Johansson, selecting Carlson to win the Norris Trophy for the first time. Carlson received 88 points (16 first-place votes) and Josi was next with 67 points (one first-place vote). Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Norris in 2018, was selected to finish third (48 points) and received the other first-place vote.
Carlson is not one to talk about individual accolades and deflected the praise to his teammates.
"It's great. I think I've been here a while, so that obviously helps," he said. "I've been here a while during the stretch of the best players probably in the history of the franchise, so I think there's a lot of great factors for me and I'm glad to be a part of it."
Carlson is plus-14 and has 25 power-play points, six game-winning goals and a Capitals-leading 97 blocked shots in 24:40 of ice time per game.
"Our team's playing well, so that's what I care about," he said. "It's nice to see the puck go in always, there's no doubt about that. But whoever's scoring them, it's good for me."
Carlson has averaged 70 points the past three seasons and has come a long way since he had 37 points in 72 games in 2016-17.
"He's just continually gotten better every year," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "I think that's a credit to him kind of having a game plan every year going into it, having a plan in the summer of how to continue to improve and continue to get better in different areas. Obviously his offensive numbers this year are remarkable, and we're going to need to continue to get that push from the back end to generate some more offense and he's an important part of that."
Washington is competing for first place in the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings and Carlson is a big reason.
"We know what we get from John every night so it's not a big surprise from us," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "He's a very talented player."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis: John Carlson, Capitals, 88 points (16 first-place votes); Roman Josi, Predators, 67 (1 first-place vote); Victor Hedman, Lightning 48 (1 first-place vote); Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, 28; Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche, 9; Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins, 8; Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks, 6; Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets, 4; Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes, 3; Seth Jones, Blue Jackets 2; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes 2; Torey Krug, Boston Bruins 1; Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers 1
NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report