Ottawa's Erik Karlsson wins Norris Trophy

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 20, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 18: Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 18, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ottawa's Erik Karlsson won his first Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman on Wednesday night. The 22-year-old Swede beat out Boston's Zdeno Chara and Nashville's Shea Weber in a close vote, moderately surprising the crowd at the league's annual postseason awards show at the Wynn Las Vegas casino. Karlsson led all defensemen with 78 points in his breakout season for the Senators, scoring 25 more points than anybody else at his position. He is the youngest winner of the award since the New York Islanders' Denis Potvin in 1976. ''It's a huge honor,'' said Karlsson, who appeared overwhelmed at his selection. ''I couldn't be more happy than I am right now. I've never been a part of something this big, and it's something that took me by surprise a little bit.'' Karlsson had a pretty incredible week in Vegas: He agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $45.5 million with the Senators on Tuesday. Karlsson also realized the symbolism of winning the Norris in the same offseason as the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, his fellow Swede and a seven-time Norris winner, including last season. Lidstrom retired from the Detroit Red Wings on May 31 after a 20-year career. ''He really took the game to another level and showed people how to play fun hockey,'' Karlsson said. ''It's an honor to be mentioned in the same way.'' Karlsson is primarily an offensive defenseman, while Chara and Weber play more defensive games. Chara won the Norris in 2009, while Weber hasn't won it in two nominations.
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