McAvoy finished 5th in the Norris Trophy voting this season, one of just eight defensemen to receive first-place votes, as Adam Fox of the New York Rangers won the award. There’s a good argument that he was snubbed of being a finalist after the kind of season he had. But at the very least, it’s a large leap for the 23-year-old, who finished 10th in the Norris voting in 2020.
With no Zdeno Chara or Torey Krug, McAvoy had to step up this season and be the No. 1 blueliner for the Bruins. He didn’t miss a step at all with his new role, recording 30 points in 51 games, which led all Bruins defensemen. His 25 assists were tied for fifth-best on the team and his plus-22 was third on the team in +/-.
McAvoy was also one of the few Bruins who decided to show up in the playoffs. His 11 assists led all Bruins skaters and his 12 points were tied for second-most in the postseason. While most of the team vanished in the playoffs, McAvoy’s production actually took a giant leap forward from what he was producing in the regular season.
What puts the Bruins’ McAvoy ahead of other defensemen in the NHL?
It’s true, in terms of point production, McAvoy wasn’t close to being among the best in the league. In fact, he wasn’t even in the top 20 among NHL defensemen in goals, assists, or points this season. For as good as his offensive production is for the Bruins on the blue line, that’s not what separates him from other NHL D-men.
It’s his ability to get the puck out of Boston’s defensive zone and up the ice that he excels at, in addition to being one of the best transition defensemen. He’s ranked among the top 5% for defensemen in offense, passing, high-danger assists, possession exits, transition, and PK, according to Andy and Rono of HockeyStatsCZ.
It’s not just his passing either. The Bruins were a much better defensive team when McAvoy was on the ice, and his 5.9 goals above replacement on defense were better than any of the three Norris finalists.
And for any of you extreme, anti-statistics people out there that rely solely on the eye test, how’s this for defensive play and passing for you.
Again, McAvoy is just 23 years old and he’s already a top Norris Trophy contender. His play has gotten better every year and he proved this season he can be a dominant No. 1 defenseman on Boston.
He will probably need to up his point production total since there is a lot more offensive consideration from the voters that is put into a defenseman award from the voters. But McAvoy is a top defender in the league and we should see him bring home at least one Norris within the next few years.