Erik Karlsson Closing In On Third Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson
[photo: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers]
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is labelled as the award for the best defenseman in the NHL during the regular season. It has since been turned into an award for the defenseman with the highest point totals. Not only has Erik Karlsson made a name for himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, he’s been awarded for it. With two Norris Trophies to his name he is aiming for a third. He won the award for the first time in 2012 and then again last season in 2015.

Despite being in the upper echelon of defensemen, and meaning so much to the success of the Ottawa Senators, he has never obtained a Hart Trophy. This is not necessarily all on him though. The Hart Trophy has only ever been awarded to two defensemen since its conception into the league. Bobby Orr won it three consecutive years from 1969-70 until 1971-72, and Chris Pronger, the most recent, in the 1999-00 season.

Statistically Speaking

At the 27 game mark, Erik showed his value to the Senators. He led his team in points with 22 and was three ahead of second place Bobby Ryan. Their, at the time, 10th place power play was clicking at a 20.6% clip. Ottawa had 13 power play goals at the  time and Karlsson had a total of eight power play points. Goes to show the kind of impact he has on their man advantage. But there is more. With 113:29 total time on the power play, Karlsson was on the ice for a miraculous near 88% of it. For a comparison, at the same point in time  P.K Subban was “just” logging  70% of the Montreal Canadiens  power play time.

(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Currently the fifth highest scoring player in the NHL with 47 points (9G, 38A), he is the highest scoring defenseman by six points over Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. Karlsson also has a plus/minus of  -1 on a team that has a -12 goal differential. Karlsson’s 47 points have helped boost his team to the ninth highest goals for per game (2.72). Since the mark at 27 games, their power play has fallen to 14th but Karlsson’s pace hasn’t slowed. He has continued to tally points and put his team in a position to win hockey games.

The Bad

The knock he has against a major award victory like the Hart is his defensive skill. He’s relatively small at 6’0” and 191 lbs. and isn’t exactly an imposing player to go up against. The Senators have the third worst goals against per game at 2.98 and the second worst penalty kill (76.2%). While this isn’t solely on Erik , the face that he doesn’t play in all situations such as the penalty kill could lessen his value in the voting. Having to go up against the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, and the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby, he has some steep competition for being an offensive specialist.

The 15th overall draft pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2008 is still young at 25 and has lots of time left to make a big push at some major awards. If he can keep his torrent pace and continue to hold his team in hockey games he could very well find his name in the hat for the Hart Trophy along with another Norris Trophy, currently being the favourite.