Avalanche’s Cale Makar wins Norris Trophy as NHL’s top defenseman

Avalanche’s Cale Makar wins Norris Trophy as NHL’s top defenseman
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TAMPA — By the time Cale Makar arrived at Amalie Arena Tuesday night to discuss his Norris Trophy win, he already was focused on a bigger prize: the Stanley Cup.

The Avalanche defenseman was one of three finalists — along with the Lightning’s Victor Hedman and Predators’ Roman Josi — for the trophy that honors the league’s top blueliner during the regular season as determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Makar, whose team will play the Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday at Amalie, was announced as the winner during the NHL Awards show earlier in the evening at Armature Works.

“Obviously, I’m very honored to be in the consideration for that award,” Makar, 23, said. “Obviously, Josi and Hedman are incredible players, but (it’s important) for me to be able to turn the page kind of quick here for tomorrow.”

Makar, the first player in Avalanche history to win the honor, received 1,631 points, including 92 first-place votes. Josi finished second with 1,606 points and 98 first-place votes. Hedman, a finalist for the sixth consecutive season, was third with 940 points and four first-place votes.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois joined the Avalanche’s Joe Sakic and Rangers’ Chris Drury as finalists for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the NHL Draft on July 7 in Montreal.

The Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the league’s top goaltender during the regular season in the eyes of the league’s general managers, with 154 points (29 first-place votes). The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy finished fifth, with 14 points (one first-place vote).

Makar led NHL defensemen with 28 goals during the regular season. His 86 points were second only to Josi (96).

“I mean, obviously I’m biased, but I think the credit and the talk around (Makar) here, especially even in the playoffs — and I know it’s a regular-season award — but we’ve seen him play this way from day one of the season,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Tuesday before the winner was announced.

“... You watch the impact he has on the games we’ve played, and for me it’s an easy decision. And that’s not to take away from any of the other guys who are up for the award, because they’re all very good players who had very good seasons. But I just think this guy is elite, and with him, the job he does for us offensively and defensively, watching him play, how dynamic he is, I just think he’s the best defenseman in the game right now.”

Makar leads league defensemen in postseason scoring with 26 points, including seven goals, through 17 games. Hedman has 17 points, including two goals, in 20 games.

Makar credited Hedman (2018) and Josi (2020)— both of whom have won the honor previously — for pushing him to be at his best all season long and keeping the race for the league’s best defenseman a competitive one.

“I told them, they push me so hard all year to be the player that I’ve developed into throughout the season,” Makar said. “A lot of credit goes to them ... but it’s awesome when you have great competition like that. It makes it a lot more fun.”

NHL Award winners

Hart Trophy (MVP): Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

Ted Lindsay Award (MVP in the eyes of the players): Matthews

Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Igor Shesterkin, Rangers

Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Cale Makar, Avalanche

Calder Trophy (top rookie): Moritz Seider, Red Wings

How the Times’ PHWA members voted:

Votes are in the order to which they were cast, going from first to fifth place. Ballots are available to view online at the PHWA website.

Norris Trophy

Eduardo A. Encina: Josi (NSH), Makar (COL), Hedman (TBL), Adam Fox (NYR) and Charlie McAvoy (BOS)

Mari Faiello: Makar, Josi, Hedman, Fox and McAvoy

Hart Trophy

Encina: Matthews (TOR), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Connor McDavid (EDM), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) and Steven Stamkos (TBL)

Faiello: McDavid, Matthews, Gaudreau, Huberdeau and Stamkos

Calder Trophy

Encina: Seider (DET), Trevor Zegras (ANA), Michael Bunting (TOR), Lucas Raymond (DET) and Jeremy Swayman (BOS)

Faiello: Seider, Zegras, Bunting, Swayman and Raymond

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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