TAMPA — The Lightning's Victor Hedman is one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL's best defenseman.
Two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson (Senators) and Brent Burns (Sharks) are the other finalists announced Friday.
"I'm extremely humbled and honored," said Hedman, the first Lightning defenseman to be a finalist for the award. "I look forward to being in Vegas with Brent and my buddy Erik (a fellow Swede)."
Hedman, 26, is coming off a career season, making his first All-Star Game appearance. He set highs for goals (16), assists (56) and points (72), the last of which ranked second in the NHL among defenseman behind Burns' 76. In doing so, Hedman set a franchise record for assists by a Lightning defenseman, passing Roman Hamrlik's 49 in 1995-96.
"Just playing with good players," Hedman said at the end of the season. "I'm being put in situations to be successful. I've obviously felt more comfortable on the power play. I've felt more comfortable playing that offensive role. We had to be able to produce, and that's been kind of what I expect of myself, to be one of the leaders, especially when we were in a big hole. We needed to climb out, needed to take charge out there."
Hedman really took off in the second half of the season, sparking the Lightning's impressive run from last in the Eastern Conference on Feb. 4 to within one point of a playoff spot. Captain Steven Stamkos pointed out how much more of a leadership role Hedman took on this year.
The award will be given June 21 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. It is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
It'll be tough for Hedman to beat out Karlsson and Burns, each of whom are in the playoffs. But Hedman is certainly deserving. Stamkos calls Hedman one of the best defensemen in the world.
Soon, Hedman could have a piece of hardware to prove it.
Joe Smith, a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.