Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi opened the 2021 season with the eighth-best odds of winning the Norris Trophy (18/1).
But 15 games into the season, if Josi continues on the same trajectory, he may just run away with the award.
The 31-year-old blue-liner recorded a four-point game in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes — his second four-point night this season. No other defenseman in the league has one.
Josi now has four four-point games in his career, the most in Predators franchise history.
“There’s just some games where you get really lucky,” Josi said. “[I’m] just trying to shoot the puck.”
However, Josi’s red-hot start is more than just shooting the puck with great volume. What makes him stand out above his peers is the varied impact he's having on different parts of the game.
Half of his points have come at even strength, and he’s tied for the fourth-most even-strength points among defensemen (8). He also leads all defensemen with four power play goals and eight power play points.
“He’s been unreal,” Predators forward Eeli Tolvanen said. “It’s fun to watch what he does on the ice, just the little things and how good he is in the offensive zone. I wouldn’t want to play defense against him, but he makes it look so easy. He’s getting hot and he’s doing the right things and you can see why he’s a top D-man in this league.”
Josi is currently on pace for 33 goals and 87 points. And while it’s a tad bit unrealistic to expect him to keep up that kind of blistering scoring pace, Josi is projected to break his career highs in just about every category.
The Predators captain needs just 11 more goals and 50 points in the Predators' final 67 games to top his best single-season performance in 2019-20, the same year he won the only Norris Trophy in franchise history.
“I feel good this year,” Josi said. “Obviously, it’s always hard to compare years to years, but I definitely feel good. I think last year, I wasn’t too happy with my year, and I knew I had another level. It’s been a good start but like I said, I definitely feel better about my game than I did last year for sure.”
It’s hard to argue that any defenseman in the NHL is playing better than Josi is right now.
Among all NHL defensemen, Josi has the most goals (6), sixth-best shooting percentage (13.64), seventh-most shots (44), and 12th-most average ice time (25:15), and he’s tied for first in points (16), sixth in assists (10), fifth in plus/minus rating (+10), and 10th in takeaways (11).
Josi isn’t just outperforming most blue-liners. In fact, among the NHL skaters, he’s tied for fourth in power play goals, fifth in power play points, 11th in plus/minus and 12th in points.
“Josi is obviously a creative offensive player and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for a lot of the effort that he’s putting in,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s a difficult guy [to defend], he can beat you so many ways — he’s a great skater, he’s got great puck skills, he’s got a fantastic shot, got great instincts. He’s one of those guys in the league that when the puck is on his stick, he’s able to see plays that some other people don’t, or he can make plays that most guys can’t and that’s what makes him a special player.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_