Can Vancouver Canucks star Quinn Hughes make the jump into Norris Trophy contention in 2023-24?
The 23-year-old defenseman hit career-highs in assists (69) and points (76) in 78 games last season, ranking in the Top 3 in the NHL in both categories.
And he should be expected to shoulder an even heavier offensive workload with Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting bought out in the summer and signing with the Florida Panthers.
So, what are the odds?
After finishing ninth in Norris Trophy voting last season, Hughes is expected to finish fifth, per a Canadian sports betting sites.
Colorado Avalanche star Cale Makar is expected to take the mantle as the NHL’s best defenseman for the second time in his career after accruing the third-most votes last year.
Last year’s runner-up, Adam Fox, has the third-highest odds followed by Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen, who shined for the Stars after doubling career assist and point totals while finishing seventh in Norris voting last season.
The 2022-23 Norris Winner, Erik Karlsson, took the biggest tumble, falling to the seventh-best odds after getting traded from San Jose to Pittsburgh this offseason.
Boston’s Charlie McAvoy, who holds the ninth-best odds, could make a run at the Norris after leading an excellent Bruins defense to the best regular season finish in NHL history.
Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Burns and Rasmus Andersson are dark horses outside of the Top 10 who also could make serious runs with standout performances on elite teams.
But what makes Hughes one of the best bets?
While the Canucks are not expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, the new Vancouver captain has established himself as one of the NHL’s best defensemen on both sides of the puck.
And as we learned last season in the case of Karlsson, Norris Trophy winners do not need to come from a Stanley Cup contender.
With Hughes having even more room to get creative, he could have a chance to see his point total rise to the top of all NHL blueliners.
And his continued success on the defensive end would give him a stronger case than Karlsson had when he took home the Norris with 101 points on a lowly Sharks squad.
It will be a competitive race to the top, though.
Makar, in particular, will be a force re-entering the race if he is fully healthy.
His Norris stock took a hit last season after injuries caused him to miss 21 games, but he still put up some of the league’s best numbers with 16 goals and 65 points.
That Avalanche team will be one of the league’s best teams and Makar will be a huge reason why.
Fox could compete for his second Norris Trophy after falling victim to Karlsson’s offensive explosion in a season where he finished the 2022-23 season with 72 points.
But at this point, Hughes has established himself as one of the NHL’s premier stars and he has a chance to solidify that with his first Norris Trophy in 2023-24.