Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Mike Green of the Washington Capitals and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks are the finalists for the 2009-10 Norris Trophy. None are older than 26, the three Canadians finished 1-2-3 among defensemen in scoring, and one will be a first-time winner of the honor.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is presented annually "to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position." The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
The winner of the trophy will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.
Here is a closer look at the finalists.
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 59
PP: 9 | PIM: 54 | +/-: 20
In 82 games this season, he had 16 goals, 43 assists and 59 points with a plus-20 rating. Among all League defensemen, Doughty was first in game-winning goals (5), second in power-play points (31), tied for second in goals and power-play goals (9), third in points, and tied for fifth in assists and power-play assists (22).
Doughty became the second-youngest defenseman in Kings history to record 50 points in a season, trailing only Larry Murphy (76 points in 1980-81). His best offensive stretch was 27 points (5 goals, 22 assists) in 28 games from Dec. 28 to March 10.
Defensively, Doughty blocked 76 shots, averaged 2:01 per game on the penalty kill, played more than 25 minutes in a game 39 times, and went over 30 minutes on two occasions. He closed the regular season with an active streak of 121 straight games plays, dating to Jan. 17, 2009.
"His year has been spectacular through this season," coach Terry Murray said. "The points, the key situations, the fact that the team has moved up in the standings and is starting to get some recognition around the League.
"He's an anchor for us back there, and I think, right now, he's comparable, No. 1 and on the defensive part of the game, with plus/minus and minutes played."
The Kings selected Doughty with the No. 2 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft.
Doughty would become the second player in team history to win the Norris, joining Rob Blake (1997-98). Only two other times did a Los Angeles defenseman place in the top five in balloting -- Blake was third in 1999-2000, and Steve Duchesne fifth in 1988-89.
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Defense - WSH
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 57 | PTS: 76
PP: 10 | PIM: 54 | +/-: 39Zdeno Chara
In 75 games, Green had 19 goals, 57 assists and 76 points, leading all League defensemen in all three categories. His assists and points were career-bests, as was a plus-39 rating (third overall in the NHL). Green, who recorded at least one point in 56 games, scored the most points by a Capitals defenseman since Kevin Hatcher had 79 in 1992-93.
Green, 24, became the 13th defenseman in League history with 70 or more points in consecutive seasons, joining such luminaries as Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch, Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, Bobby Orr, and Nicklas Lidstrom. He's the seventh to accomplish the feat before turning 25.
In 2009-10, Green was the only defenseman in the NHL to record at least one point in eight straight games, and he posted three such streaks, including a career-best nine-game stretch. Among all NHL blueliners, he was first in power-play production with 10 goals, 25 assists and 35 points.
"The (offensive numbers) are nice, but not something where I can hang my hat and feel like I've accomplished something," Green told NHL.com. "I think there's a lot more to accomplish. The thing is, I am looked upon to score goals and create offense from the back end. But I'm trying to become a complete player -- that's what I'm striving for."
Green's 25:28 of ice time per game was ninth-best among NHL defensemen, and he averaged 2:09 shorthanded and 5:03 on the power play. He recorded 133 hits, 105 blocked shots and 44 takeaways. Green's 33:48 on Feb. 13 at St. Louis was a single-game team high in ice time.
Green is bidding to become the second player in franchise history to win the Norris, joining Rod Langway (1982-83 and 1983-84). The last Capitals player to place in the top five in balloting was Sergei Gonchar in 2002-03 (fourth).
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Defense - CHI
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 55 | PTS: 69
PP: 3 | PIM: 51 | +/-: 21
Keith's point total was second among all NHL defensemen. It also was the highest-scoring season by a Chicago defenseman since Chris Chelios posted 72 points in 1995-96.
He led all NHL defensemen in goals (10), assists (38) and points (48) at even-strength. Keith also was proficient on the penalty kill, leading all defensemen with 5 shorthanded points (1 goal, 4 assists).
Keith, 26, was second among all defensemen with 15 multi-point contests, and also excelled defensively with 143 blocked shots and a plus-21 rating. He was second in the NHL with an average of 26:35 of ice time per game. Keith played more than 30 minutes in a game eight times, including a team season-high of 32:40 March 14 against Washington. He averaged 2:58 on the penalty kill and 2:48 on the power play per game.
"The best part for us, as far as measuring a defenseman's efficiency, is consistency -- and predictability," coach Joel Quenneville told NHL.com. "And Duncan has been that, game in and game out.
"His numbers offensively have increased this year. (Thanks to) his quickness, his shot seems to be penetrating more this year. Certainly we really like the energy he brings, shift in and shift out. You know he's going to get the job done."
He would become the fourth player in franchise history to win the Norris, joining Chelios (1992-93 and 1995-96), Doug Wilson (1981-82), and Pierre Pilote (1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65).
Contact Rocky Bonanno at email@example.com