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Senators' Karlsson early favorite for Norris Trophy

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

It has become commonplace for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to contribute offensively. The Senators captain has two 70-point seasons and scored an NHL career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

But Karlsson, who has five goals in his past six games, is much more than an offensive defenseman. He is relied on in all situations and is averaging 26:59 of ice time per game, which puts him among the top three skaters in the NHL. That's why Karlsson is the front-runner to win the Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman.

Karlsson previously won the Norris in 2012 and again last season, when he had 66 points and a plus-7 rating in 82 games. With 22 points in 20 games this season, the 25-year-old likely will finish with at least 70 points for the third time in his NHL career.

A fair portion of Karlsson's offensive output will come on the power play; Ottawa is fifth in the NHL with the man-advantage (22.2 percent). Nine of Karlsson's 22 points have come on the power play.

"I think our power play has been better than it's been in years from how we feel about it," Karlsson said in a recent video posted on the Senators website. "Even though we haven't scored as many goals as we wanted, we're getting what we want from it."

FINALISTS

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars: One of the more pleasant surprises in the NHL, Klingberg is thriving in his second season in Dallas. The 23-year-old already is more than halfway toward his point total from 2014-15, when he had 11 goals and 29 assists in 65 games. Through the first 21 games this season, Klingberg had four goals and 19 assists. He's second on the Stars with 23:24 of ice time per game and his plus-14 rating is tied with Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers for the League lead among defensemen.

"Offensively he might be one of the best in the League, and he's getting much better defensively," defense partner Alex Goligoski recently told the Dallas Morning News. "He works hard and he's learning. I think the key is not forcing things, and he can be very good at being patient. So I think he's getting better all the time."

P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens: He has one goal through 22 games, but Subban, who won the Norris in 2013, is putting up points. He's tied for second in the NHL among defensemen with 16 assists. He has a plus-9 rating and is averaging 24:44 of ice time per game. His play has helped Montreal stay atop the Atlantic Division through the first quarter of the season.

"Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, so I think we're going to save the champagne that everybody expects us to break out," Subban recently told the Canadiens website. "Our focus is to try to make the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs and then move on from there. I know that as a team we're not satisfied with where we're at right now."

ALSO IN THE MIX: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes.

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