Norris Trophy Power Rankings: Makar reaching another level

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Welcome to the first edition of theScore's Norris Trophy Power Rankings.

Our rankings this season are going to focus more on analytics and defensive acumen rather than points.

  • xGF% calculates the share of expected goals a team produces while a player is on the ice at five-on-five
  • OZS% calculates the percentage of offensive-zone starts a player receives at five-on-five (excluding neutral-zone and on-the-fly starts)

Note: Jaccob Slavin and Aaron Ekblad were both considered but their respective three-game samples were deemed too small.

5. Noah Hanifin, Flames

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5 0 2 18:31 61.6 36.4

Hanifin's appearance on this list will surprise many. His basic stats are unflattering, but he's been arguably the league's best defensive defenseman this season. The 2015 fifth overall pick is one of five blue-liners who hasn't been scored on yet - including the penalty kill (minimum 50 minutes played). The metrics support that he hasn't been lucky or bailed out by his goaltender, either, as his expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five (xGA60) ranks 17th among D-men.

It's even more impressive that Hanifin has produced those excellent metrics while being deployed in a shutdown role. He and his new defense partner, Chris Tanev, have been outstanding for the Calgary Flames.

4. Rasmus Ristolainen, Sabres

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7 1 3 22:26 59.8 40

Ristolainen has been a revelation. The Buffalo Sabres blue-liner has always passed the eye test with his size, skating ability, and physicality. However, the underlying numbers suggest he's actually been quite abysmal in his career, posting a sub-50 xGF% in all seven of his previous seasons.

It remains to be seen whether something clicked for Ristolainen in his age-26 campaign, he's become accustomed to Ralph Krueger's system, or he's benefiting from a better team around him than those of past years. Perhaps it's just a giant fluke. Nonetheless, his great play so far is undeniable, and he's doing it while leading the Sabres in ice time and playing against top competition along with Jake McCabe - who's also been excellent.

Ristolainen has been especially strong defensively, ranking fifth in the league in xGA/60 at five-on-five.

3. Shea Theodore, Golden Knights

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7 3 4 23:00 60.3 58.1

Even with Alex Pietrangelo in the fold, Theodore has been the Vegas Golden Knights' most effective defenseman this season. The 25-year-old really came into his own last season, but he's taken another step so far this year. Buoyed by his elite offensive play-driving ability, Theodore ranks 15th among defensemen in xGF%.

He's been very responsible this year, as well. Despite the fact he ranks 10th among D-men in rush attempts per 60 minutes, he's turned the puck over just twice in seven games.

2. Shea Weber, Canadiens

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6 1 3 24:01 60.4 50

Weber is defying the odds at age 35 with his fantastic start to the campaign. He's been a key part of the Montreal Canadiens' 4-0-2 start to the season. The captain leads the team in ice time, and he tops NHL rearguards in high-danger scoring chance percentage and ranks third in high-danger chances allowed per 60 minutes.

The Habs are getting contributions throughout the lineup, but Weber is their most valuable defenseman (though Jeff Petry is racking up the points), as well as their most important player overall.

1. Cale Makar, Avalanche

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7 0 8 22:52 74.1 59.5

Makar has been head and shoulders above the rest. Everyone knows how explosive he is offensively, but he's really shored up his defensive game. He ranks first among defensemen in xGA/60 and xGF% and is tied for second with five takeaways.

The reigning Calder Trophy winner has also gained more trust from Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. Makar not only leads the Avs in ice time after ranking fourth on the team a year ago, but his OZS% has decreased by five, showing that Bednar trusts him in more defensive situations.

Makar should really be garnering some Hart Trophy recognition as the NHL's most valuable player.

Honorable mention: Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Charlie McAvoy, Justin Faulk, Justin Holl, Darnell Nurse

(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)

Norris Trophy Power Rankings: Makar reaching another level
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