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Norris Trophy Power Rankings: Girard steps up for Makar-less Avs

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Welcome to the third edition of theScore's Norris Trophy Power Rankings, where we have five brand-new entrants.

These rankings focus on analytics and all-around ability at the position rather than just points.

  • xGF% = the share of expected goals a team produces while a player is on the ice at five-on-five
  • GAR = goals above replacement-level player

5. Chris Tanev, Flames

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty
34 2 3 21:49 59.82 6.1

Tanev cracking this list will surely raise some eyebrows, but if there was an award for the league's best defensive defenseman, he'd be the runaway favorite.

At five-on-five, the 31-year-old ranks first among qualified blue-liners in expected goals against per hour, second in goals against per hour, and fourth in high-danger chances against per hour.

His shut-down ability is enough to warrant a spot on this list, though No. 5 is probably as high he'll get given his offensive limitations.

4. Jeff Petry, Canadiens

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
31 11 16 22:36 57.9 8

A case could be made that Petry's numbers should place him higher, but there are a few important factors to consider.

Much of his value is tied to goal-scoring, which is bound to dry up at some point. (His shooting percentage is more than double his career average.) His possession numbers are excellent, but Montreal is still a 54 xGF% team with him on the bench. He also doesn't draw the toughest assignments, as Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot generally handle those.

Nonetheless, Petry's stellar underlying defensive metrics - despite the softer matchups - combined with his offensive production make him well worthy of an appearance here.

3. Adam Fox, Rangers

Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport / Getty
30 3 18 24:30 58.0 4.1

After destroying bottom-pairing matchups as a rookie in 2019-20, Fox has made a seamless transition against tougher competition.

The value that Fox provides to the Rangers is unparalleled. He only ranks ninth among qualified defenseman in xGF%, but New York's xGF% drops over 10 points when Fox isn't on the ice at five-on-five. True No. 1 defensemen elevate everyone around them, and the 23-year-old is doing exactly that.

2. Victor Hedman, Lightning

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty
32 6 27 25:32 52.9 6

Hedman was omitted from the past two editions of this list due to some mediocre underlying defensive numbers, but as expected, he's rounding into his Norris Trophy form at both ends of the ice. Since our last rankings, Hedman ranks 13th in xGA/60 and 13th in xGF%.

The 2018 Norris winner leads all NHL blue-liners in points (33) and power-play points (19). That's not the be-all and end-all of the award, but when his improved defensive play is factored in, he's more than worthy of being in serious consideration for the No. 1 spot.

1. Samuel Girard, Avalanche

Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty
29 5 19 23:21 60.7 13

The 5-foot-10 Girard placing ahead of the 6-foot-6 Hedman is proof that elite defensemen come in all shapes and sizes.

Girard has been nothing short of spectacular all season. He ranks second among qualified D-men in xGF%, sixth in xGF/60, and seventh in xGA/60. He's elevated his game even further as of late.

The Avalanche have dealt with numerous injuries this season but perhaps none bigger than Cale Makar's 10-game absence over the last month. Girard amassed 10 points and posted a 67.4 xGF% - second-best among blue-liners - during that span.

Makar would likely still be leading this list if he didn't get hurt. He's back now, but missing nearly a third of his team's games eliminates him from consideration for the time being. It won't matter to the Avs, who now have the luxury of counting on two elite rearguards.

Honorable mentions: Charlie McAvoy, Jonas Brodin, Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews

(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick, Evolving-Hockey)

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