2020-21 Hidden Gem Norris Trophy Candidates

2020-21 Hidden Norris Candidates

The Norris trophy went from the best defenseman now to the most offensive defence. Do not get me wrong, if a defenseman puts up 50 points in a season while in the best league in the world, yes, that would make sense to award them the trophy. Yet, the defence is much more than just offensive production. Instead, a good defenceman is the same as a good quarterback. Whether it is rushing the puck up the ice or creating that first tape-to-tape breakout pass, they can control the game’s pace from the back end. In this article, we will take a look at some 2020-21 hidden Norris Candidates.

2020-21 Hidden Norris Candidates

As hockey continues to grow, so does the analytical side of things. In contrast, strict numbers cannot tell you precisely how good or not a player may be. Yet, it does indeed help paint a much clearer picture. It is said “fancy stats” have given individual players the credit they truly deserve. For example, whether you may realize it or not, pretty much every team has a sneaky Norris candidate each year. While it can only be awarded to one player, some guys could easily qualify but are continuously overlooked.

Aaron Ekblad

First, on the list, we have the Florida Panthers‘ former first-overall pick, Aaron Ekblad. He is coming off his most productive season, with the least amount of games played in his career. Ekblad has continued to show improvement year in and year out. It is baffling that Ekblad has not received a Norris vote since the 2015-16 season yet has some of the best analytics for a defenceman. Look at last season compared with Nashville Predators defenceman Roman Josi

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The primary difference comes down to the fact that Josi outscored Ekblad this past season. Besides that, there isn’t a drastic variation between the two. While Ekblad’s expected goals against is lower than Josi, the Panthers allowed the fifth-most goals-against across the whole league. With Ekblad leading the entire team in time on ice, the two issues are bound to intertwine throughout the season. Not to mention the teams finished with identical records. Now that Ekblad is turning just 25-years old in February, there is plenty of potential for a Norris Trophy in the next few years.

Ryan Ellis

Another defenceman who does not seem to get the credit he deserves is Nashville’s, Ryan Ellis. Another blue-liner that consistently dominates from the back end. Not only was Ellis great last season, but also, his past three seasons combined have been even better. With 38 points this season, Ellis has recorded his second-most productive season in his career.

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Despite only playing in 49 games this past season, he could play a full season as Josi did. Who knows where he would have ended with the Norris Votes. It looks as if he was on pace to challenge him for the award. Considering he has never received a Norris Trophy look before, Ryan Ellis played almost identical to that of the Norris winner Roman Josi this past season. Again, begging the question, is the NHL awarding post productive or best over-all?

Mattias Ekholm

Continuing down the list, we have another Nashville defenceman who has dominated from an analytical perspective the past three seasons in Mattias Ekholm. A quieter name when you think of a defenceman in the NHL. Ekholm was fortunate enough to receive Norris votes and All-star game votes. Marking this as the first time in his career for either to happen. He has been the epitome of consistency, in even strength, this past few seasons. Having to share the ice with Ellis and Josi can make it hard for Ekholm to spread into the limelight.

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Having to share the ice with Ellis and Josi has made it hard for Ekholm to spread into the limelight. With no signs of slowing down, Ekholm is heading into his tenth season. With the new divisional alignments, it will be interesting to see how the Nashville Predators defenceman does in general heading into the 2020-21 season.

Vince Dunn

With the departure of Alex Pietrangelo, the St. Louis Blues have quite the void to fill on the back end. After spending 12-seasons with the Blues, Alex and the team have parted ways. He is leaving an open spot for his replacement in the line-up. Even though the team did bring Torey Krug as a replacement, while this is an excellent replacement, they are unfortunately not the same. With that being said, it will be Vince Dunn who has the potential to replace him. The 24-year old is looking for a new contract; with Alex Steen retiring, this will make things easier for the Blues front office.

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Looking toward the future, Dunn is another defenseman who has made a future Norris Trophy winner. Compared to this past season, with that of Josi. Heading into only his fourth season, Dunn has shown he has what it takes to be considered the same calibre.

Hidden Norris Candidates of the Future

As mentioned before, these players are not solidified as future Norris Trophy winners. Yet, these players are all hidden gem 2020-21 Norris Candidates that could surprise in a shortened season. They even have the potential in the following season to win the trophy as well. In comparison, it is more unlikely for the older guys in Ellis and Ekholm. Players like Dunn and Ekblad have time to continue to grow. With that said, these are not the only players who can be considered.

Whether you realize it or not, every season, each team has a defenceman who is a sneaky, hidden Norris Trophy candidate. Yet, they never receive the love they deserve. Players like Jakob Chychrun and Devon Toews are guys who have plenty of upside on the back end. Nowadays, it seems like a good NHL defenseman is like a fine wine. They become better with age. As these players continue to grow and develop, so will their chances of being named the NHL’s best defenseman.

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