Avalanche’s Cale Makar wins Norris Trophy as NHL’s best defenseman

TAMPA, Fla. — Cale Makar on Tuesday night became the Avalanche’s first Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman.

Makar, who leads Colorado in scoring this postseason, amassed a club-record 86 points and 28 goals for a defenseman in 77 regular-season games. Voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association was completed before the playoffs and announcements were made at the league’s awards ceremony here Tuesday evening.

“Just excited. It’s awesome that my family, my parents, are here and be able to spend that with me,” Makar said from Amalie Arena after the ceremony nearby, “but for me, I got to kind of turn the page quick and get ready for tomorrow.”

The Avalanche faces the Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final here on Wednesday night.

Makar, 23, was the Norris Trophy runner-up to the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox last season. He beat out fellow finalists Roman Josi of Nashville and Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay for the award this year. Hedman won it in 2018 and Josi in 2020.

Josie edged out Makar in first-place votes, 98 to 92, but Makar led 98-78 in second-place votes. Makar finished with 1,631 points, Josi 1,606 and Hedman 940.

“It was an amazing competition and it’s amazing competing against you every single night,” Makar said from the podium to Josi and Hedman, who were both in attendance. “Secondly, I’d like to thank the (team owner) Kroenkes who are here tonight for giving us the tools to be a successful team, and I’m honored for (general managers) Joe (Sakic) and C-Mac (Chris MacFarland), obviously, for providing us with the boys, and mostly, my amazing parents who are here tonight.”

During the award’s show, Sakic, New York’s Chris Drury and Tampa Bay’s Julien Brisebois were named Jim Gregory GM of the year finalists for 2022. The winner will be named during the NHL draft in Montreal July 7-8.

Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar talks about his “team award” and GMs Joe Sakic and Chris MacFarland (assistant) #Avs pic.twitter.com/Uehg91nkHA

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) June 22, 2022

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar talked about Makar’s Norris Trophy candidacy before the ceremony.

“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 1 of the season,” Bednar said. “I think he’s a much better player this year than he was last year and you watch the impact that he has on the games that we’ve played and for me, it’s an easy decision.

“And that’s not to take away from any of the other guys that are up for the award because they’re all very good players who had very good seasons, but I just think this guy is elite and with him, the job he does for us offensively and defensively, watching him play, how dynamic he is, he’s just the best defenseman in the game right now.”

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Avalanche veteran defenseman Jack Johnson, 35, also spoke about Makar’s Norris credentials before the ceremony.

“Obviously, I’m biased. He’s my teammate and I sit next to him in the locker room,” Johnson said. “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, the way he skates, the way he handles the puck, his vision.

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