Welcome to the second edition of theScore's Norris Trophy Power Rankings.
These rankings focus more on analytics and defensive acumen rather than just points.
With Oscar Klefbom out for the season, the Oilers desperately needed someone on their blue line to step up, and Nurse has not disappointed. Edmonton has long waited for its 2013 seventh overall pick to break out.
Nurse has been elite at driving offense from the back end, but his game hasn't been perfect. Opposing offenses still generate too many chances against the Oilers when Nurse is on the ice at five-on-five. He also leads the league with 30 giveaways. He'll move up this list if he can minimize sloppy mistakes.
Weber's appearance on this list may come as a surprise considering his counting stats don't jump off the page and the Habs have been skidding lately. However, Montreal's captain has been a rock defensively.
Among defensemen with 200 minutes at five-on-five, Weber ranks seventh in expected goals against per hour (xGA/60) and 12th in high-danger chances against per hour (HDCA/60).
For those who don't like fancy stats, consider this: Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, the two likely Hart Trophy front-runners, have combined for zero goals and five assists at even strength in seven games against Montreal this season. That's a testament to Weber's shutdown ability, as he generally draws those difficult assignments.
The Panthers' hot start is one of the season's biggest surprises so far. Much of it is due to their improved defensive play as a team, but Ekblad's emergence as one of the league's best shutdown blue-liners cannot be ignored.
Ekblad ranks 16th among defensemen in xGA/60, 15th in HDCA/60, and 20th in GA/60. He doesn't drive play offensively like other blue-liners on this list, but he sits tied for first among rearguards in goals thanks to his rocket of a shot.
It's been incredible to watch McAvoy step up following the offseason departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins didn't make any additions on the back end, so behind McAvoy, frankly, is a group of unknowns. Yet, Boston still leads its division and is the league's best shot-suppressing team.
There's a strong case to be made that McAvoy is his team's most valuable player. The Bruins survived the loss of David Pastrnak to begin the season, going 5-1-1. It's hard to imagine they'd be able to stay above water without their No. 1 defenseman, though. Boston's xGF% drops nearly 10% without McAvoy on the ice at five-on-five.
Makar is still the no-brainer choice for top spot on this list. He ranks first among D-men in xGF%, 15th in HDCF%, and 19th in GF%. These numbers aren't merely the result of his jaw-dropping offensive ability, as he grades especially strong defensively, ranking second in xGA/60 and seventh in HDCA/60.
What's perhaps most impressive about Makar's season is that he's been incredibly responsible despite being heavily relied upon to make the first pass out of the defensive zone or carry the puck up the ice. The reigning Calder Trophy winner has recorded the eighth-fewest giveaways per hour among rearguards while accruing the second-most takeaways per hour.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)