Makar ‘honored’ to win Norris Trophy, focused on Cup with Avalanche

TAMPA– Kal Makar said he appreciates winning the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top defenseman, at Tuesday’s 2022 NHL Awards.

But winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche remains the ultimate goal.

“Obviously I’m very honored to be considered for this award … but for me I need to quickly turn the page here and get ready for tomorrow,” Makar said Tuesday ahead of the Avalanche earning a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday at the Amalie Arena.

Video: Kal Makar wins the Norris Trophy for best defenseman

The 23-year-old became the first defenseman in Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to win the Professional Hockey Writers Association-picked Norris with 1,631 points. Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators who won 2020 took second place in this year’s voting with 1,606 points. It was the closest race for the award since Eric Karlson won in 2012 with the Ottawa Senators against Shea Weber (Predators) (1,069-1,057).

Victor Hedman of the Lightning, who won in 2018, finished third with 940 points.

Makar and Hedman play each other in the cup final. Hedman is trying to help Tampa Bay win a third straight championship.

“They are such incredible players,” said Makar. “They pushed me so hard all season, as an individual on the ice. It’s amazing to compete against these guys. It gives them a lot of credit for the success I’ve personally had this year.”

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Makar led the defensemen with 28 goals during the regular season and was second to Josi in points (86) in 77 games to help Colorado (56-19-7) earn first place in the Western Conference. He was second among defenders with a plus-48 rating behind his teammate Devon Toews (up-52) and finished first with six game-winning goals.

Makar leads the Avalanche with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 18 Stanley Cup playoff games. Colorado is 15-3 this postseason.

Makar, the Avalanche’s 2017 NHL Draft No. 4, scored in his debut, a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the Western Conference first round on April 15, 2019. Colorado qualified for the Playoffs in each of Makar’s first four seasons, and he said he’s learning a little bit more with each experience.

He has 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in 52 postseason games.

“I’m still quite young so it’s very exciting for me to have this playoff experience at an early age,” Makar said. “You’re just trying to absorb everything. At the end of the day, it’s step by step. Being able to experience what we have as a team right now will only make us stronger going forward no matter what happens. But we’re focused now on obviously winning.”

Makar has accumulated five points in the first four games of the cup final, including an assist in Game 4. The Avalanche are one win away from their first cup championship since 2001.

“You can’t think too far ahead,” Makar said. “Obviously we still have so much work to do, but as a team we’ve just put ourselves in a great position. We just have to capitalize on that.”

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