Karlsson finalist for Norris Trophy

Sens defenceman Erik Karlsson has become a rising star in the NHL. (Darren Brown/QMI Agency)

Sens defenceman Erik Karlsson has become a rising star in the NHL. (Darren Brown/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:42 PM ET

NEW YORK - It will be Viva Las Vegas for Erik Karlsson.

As the Senators prepared to play Game 7 of their first-round series against the Rangers on Thursday night Madison Square Garden, Karlsson was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenceman.

Karlsson, 21, who had 19 goals and 59 assists for 78 points to lead all defencemen in scoring this season, is up against stiff competition. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and the Predators Shea Weber are also up for the award.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

"I'm very proud. It's a big honour to be named for that (award), especially with the guys that are there," Karlsson said Thursday morning. "It's been a good year and I'm nothing more than happy.

"It feels good to accomplish something. As I said, I'm just proud to be up there and it's not something that I counted on going into the season."

This is the first time Karlsson has been nominated in voting done by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Chara, who won the Norris in 2009, had 12 goals and 40 assists, while Weber had 19 goals and 30 assists.

Senators centre Jason Spezza said Karlsson deserves to win for the contribution he made this season.

"The year offensively he had, the big minutes that he plays for us and I think the fact that every night he's playing against the other team's first or second line and playing consistently," said Spezza.

"He's been the guy for us in the back end. Having the year he's had -- where he's 20 or 30 points up on the guy behind him is pretty amazing."

Karlsson said he didn't think this would be a special season.

"I never imagined that it would happen," said Karlsson, who scoffed at a question the nomination would put more pressure on him in Game 7. "We've done a good job this year playing some good hockey and some guys have had outstanding years. I've just been able to help contribute."

Coach Paul MacLean said he didn't know Karlsson could be a Norris Trophy candidate coming into the season.

"I knew he could skate really good," said MacLean. "We knew we could get him to use his abilities to become a good player, but whether or not we felt at that time that he was good enough to be a Norris candidate I'm not sure. He certainly played good enough this year to deserve it."

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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