Victor Hedman has been an elite defenseman in the NHL and was rewarded last season by making the League's Second All-Star Team and being named a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
Hedman finished second among defensemen in points (72), four behind Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, and was second among all skaters with 33 power-play points behind Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (35). Hedman took a big step offensively, improving his point total by 25 from the previous season without sacrificing his defensive game and averaging a career-high 24:30 of ice time per game.
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The first-time Norris finalist (who finished third in voting behind Burns and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators in 2016-17) will win the award this season, according to a panel of 17 NHL.com staff members.
Hedman earned 66 points, 11 more than Karlsson (55). Burns (43) finished third, and Roman Josi (Nashville Predators, 28) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings, 22) rounded out the top five.
"[Hedman], he's a horse," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said during his exit day interview in April. "I think it doesn't surprise us in this room because we know what he is, but obviously from an offensive-numbers perspective, he was so good on the power play that that helped spike the numbers for sure. That's where I think for him he gained a lot of confidence was quarterbacking the power play and really utilizing his shot, his passing ability."
Video: Victor Hedman takes the No. 15 spot
Hedman (6-foot-6, 223 pounds) uses his long reach to break up plays and get in the shooter lane. His 132 blocked shots led the Lightning last season and he has at least 100 blocks in each of the past four seasons, making him one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the League.
"Victor is a really, really good player in this League," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Hedman had two goals, including in overtime, and seven blocked shots in a 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 1. "An exceptional player."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, 66 points (six first-place votes); Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 55 points (four); Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks, 43 (three); Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 28 (one); Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings, 22 (two); Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins, 14; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, 8 (one); Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets, 6; Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens, 3; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets, 3; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, 2; Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes, 2; P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators, 2; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, 1