Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is working on his fifth consecutive Norris Trophy nomination. He was the MVP of his team's championship run last season, hoisting the Stanley Cup during a boat parade months before Tom Brady tossed the Lombardi trophy from his boat to Rob Gronkowski's on the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa, Florida. At a time when the NHL's elite forwards are picked apart for their defensive flaws, Hedman is one of hockey's most complete players.
So, all of that established, is it possible that Victor Hedman is the best hockey player in the world right now?
"Not a chance," said Hedman, with a laugh. "I would say zero people in the world would say I'm the best player in the world."
Even though he plays over 25 impactful minutes on average per game, controlling conditions in his own zone while aggressively joining the offensive flow? Hedman is second during the past three seasons in points-per-game average (0.83) among defensemen who have played over 100 games, and he's tied for first in goals scored above average (35.3) among defensemen in that span, per Evolving-Hockey data.
Still not a chance?
"No. Not according to me, at least. Now, If someone were to say that to me, I would say, 'Thank you but I don't think so,'" Hedman said. "I mean, I wouldn't argue with the guy. But I just don't think I'm the best player in the world. Zero chance."
His coach, Jon Cooper, isn't constrained by Hedman's modesty in discussing the star defenseman. In his ninth season with the Lightning, Cooper has coached Hedman since the towering Swede was 22 years old.
"Is he 30 now? You know, it's crazy: I would argue he's playing the best of his career. There are times when he's going where it looks like a man among boys," Cooper said. "I've just watched that kid get better and better. I don't know when he's going to hit his ceiling."