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Getting His Due: Roman Josi Gaining Steam In MVP Discussion



Photo of Roman Josi by John Russell/Nashville Predators

On some level, Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi likely conceded somewhere along the line that winning an individual performance award would be more difficult for him than others who play in larger markets with more national television exposure.

Which is why his Norris Trophy win in 2020 was a moment of vindication for himself and the Predators, a sign that sometimes even the longshot does pay off.

That win helped put Josi on the map as not just one of the NHL’s truly elite defensemen (something those in the state of Tennessee already knew), but it cemented him as one of the league’s top players, period — a declaration many more on getting on board with as Josi is building a strong case for consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s most valuable player.

“I did have someone say to me, and it was at the GM meetings and it was not Barry (Trotz), it was someone else, and they said there’s all this talk about Josi for Norris, I had some people say to me you should start looking at him for the Hart,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman told 102.5 The Game last week. “Like he’s having that kind of a season. It’s hard for defensemen to win the Hart Trophy. It doesn’t happen very much at all.”

To Friedman’s point, only eight defensemen have ever won the award in its 101-year history, and the last blue-liner to win it was Chris Pronger during the 1999-2000 season. Prior to Pronger’s victory, a defenseman hadn’t won the Hart Trophy in 27 years.

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon is the current betting favorite to win the Hart (-160 odds), followed by Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (+330), Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (+380) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (+800).

And while Josi may not be on many ballots right now, if he keeps playing the way he has over the last five-plus weeks, it’ll be difficult for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, who vote on the Hart Trophy, to not at least acknowledge the role he’s played in the Predators’ turnaround.

“Josi is going to get MVP votes, and he might sneak into being a finalist,” Friedman said on his “32 Thoughts” podcast on Monday. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

During Nashville’s 17-game point streak, Josi has totaled seven goals, 23 points and 57 shots with a +21 rating. Over that span, he leads all NHL defensemen in goals and points per game (1.35), and he ranks second in points and third in power-play points (8). Additionally, he also ranks second in plus/minus, 13th in points and 15th in points per game among all NHL skaters.

It isn’t just that Josi has had a really good month-plus, it’s that his body of work this season is putting others at his position to shame.

Josi leads all NHL defensemen in several categories including goals (18), primary assists (33), shots on goal (228), shots on goal per 60 (7.87), power-play minutes (276:45), power-play goals (8) and expected rebounds created (14.7).

He also ranks second in expected goals (14.2) and power-play shots (53), third in points (72), goals per 60 (0.62), expected goals per 60 (0.49), high-danger goals for percentage (69.1) and rebounds created (44), fourth in power-play points (28), fifth in power-play shooting percentage (15) and high-danger chances for percentage (62.3), and sixth in points per 60 (2.49) and on-ice goal differential (+45).

While it’s tough to truly compare Josi’s resume with that of pure scorers like MacKinnon (44 goals, 122 points) or Kucherov (41 goals, 123 points), the fact that he’s even forcing those in the national media to even have a conversation about whether or not he should be in the conversation is a win itself.

While winning the Hart is likely a pipedream, closing the distance between himself and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes and Colorado’s Cale Makar for the Norris Trophy is a much more attainable feat for Josi over the Predators’ final 11 games.

“My opinion is he’s playing as high a level as anyone int he league at that position right now,” Predators head coach Andrew Brunette said. “He deserves to be in the [Norris] talk, but I don’t know if it really bothers him or not.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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