To mark the midpoint of the 2016-17 season, NHL.com is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Norris Trophy.
Brent Burns helped the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final last season. He finished with 24 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tied for sixth all-time among defenseman in one postseason.
He also was a Norris Trophy finalist, finishing third in voting after scoring 27 goals and 75 points in 82 games. Burns is on a better offensive pace this season with 17 goals and 27 assists (44 points) through 42 games. That's why a poll of 12 NHL.com writers has Burns as the favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman at midseason.
Burns, 31, has been so valuable to the Sharks that on Nov. 23 they signed him to an eight-year, $64 million contract which runs through the 2024-25 season.
"To see that size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and that skill set and that type of shot ... there's not many players like that who can create offense from the back end, [and] he also defends well," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said after the signing.
Video: Trophy Tracker: Norris picks at halfway point
Burns leads defensemen in scoring and the NHL in shots on goal (166). He plays in all situations, is averaging almost 25 minutes of ice time per game, and is a big reason the Sharks are tied for first place in the Pacific Division.
"I honestly do feel he is just coming into his prime, and he puts those expectations on himself, but I think they are very realistic that he continues to grow as a player," Wilson said.
Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning came in second among the panel of 12 voters and was the only player other than Burns to receive multiple first-place votes (seven, two). Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens edged Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators for third place. They, along with reigning Norris winner Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, each received one first-place vote.
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks, 53; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, 33; Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens, 27; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 23; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings, 17; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, 15; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, 6; Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers, 4; Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2.