Former CJHL MVP Makar wins Norris Trophy as NHL’s top defenceman

Former CJHL Top Rookie/Defenceman/MVP Cale Makar - Photo credit: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Courtesy National Hockey League

TAMPA, Fla. — Former Canadian Junior Hockey MVP Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche won the Norris Trophy, voted as the best defenseman in the NHL, at the 2022

NHL Awards on Tuesday.

The runner-up for the Norris last season, Makar helped Colorado finish first in the Western Conference during the regular season (56-19-7) and is the first Avalanche player to win the award.

Makar led defenseman with 28 goals and was second to Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators in points (86). He ranked second among defenseman with a plus-48 rating behind teammate Devon Toews (plus-52), second in even-strength points (52), third in power-play points (34), tied for first in game-winning goals (six) and was second in shots on goal (240).

“I mean, obviously I’m biased, but I think the credit and the talk around him 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. “I think he’s a much better player this year than he was [Monday] night (6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final).

“You watch the impact he has on the games we’ve played and for me, it’s an easy decision. 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 and had very good seasons. But I just think this guy is elite, and the job he does for us offensively, defensively, watching him play, how dynamic he is, I just think he’s the best defenseman in the game right now.”

Makar was sixth in the NHL in average ice time per game (25:40) and scored seven goals in a five-game goal-scoring streak from Nov. 17-26, and 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in a 13-game point streak from Feb.13-March 8.

“He’s my teammate, I sit next to him in the locker room,” Colorado defenseman Jack Johnson said Tuesday. “I get to see him every day. I get to see the special things he does night in and night out, the impact he has offensively and defensively and the way he skates, the way he handles the puck, his vision.

“I think the sky’s the limit for him. He’s only going to keep getting better, which is the amazing part and I’m just as big of a fan of him as a person as I am a hockey player.”

Though the award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Makar is third in the NHL this postseason with 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 17 games. The Avalanche have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final; Game 4 is at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“Not surprised at all,” Colorado forward Andre Burakovsky said when Makar was named a finalist. “I think he’s the most dynamic D-man I’ve played with and I’ve seen. The things he does out there, it’s hard to believe it. The way he skates, the way he joins the offense, the way he shoots and the way he defends, I mean, obviously I’d be surprised if he didn’t win it.”

Josi was second and Victor Hedman of the Lightning was third as the other finalists for the award. Josi was also a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association. Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews won the award.

Makar was also named to the NHL First All-Star Team, which was announced on Tuesday.

“[Makar is] just an amazing player,” Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque told recently. “I love watching him. He’s going to be winning a lot of Norris Trophies, and this year might be his first.”