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Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson wins Norris Trophy as NHL's top defenceman

In this Dec. 1, 2011, file photo, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65), of Sweden, controls the puck during an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, in Dallas. A dream season for Erik Karlsson ended in spectacular fashion _ with the Ottawa Senators defenceman holding the Norris Trophy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP,Tony Gutierrez

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In this Dec. 1, 2011, file photo, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65), of Sweden, controls the puck during an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, in Dallas. A dream season for Erik Karlsson ended in spectacular fashion _ with the Ottawa Senators defenceman holding the Norris Trophy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP,Tony Gutierrez

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - When Erik Karlsson reached the biggest moment of his young life, all he could do was apologize.

The Ottawa Senators defenceman was so nervous after winning the Norris Trophy on Wednesday night that he didn't feel like himself. Not even in his wildest dreams did the 22-year-old Swede expect to find himself accepting such a prestigious award.

"It's not something that I counted on—especially not now," said Karlsson. "It feels just really great I think. I'm just a little bit nervous; never been this nervous before in this kind of way.

"It's in one way very frustrating because I want to be who I normally am but it's very big and it's a great honour and it's something I will look back on as being one of the best days of my life."

Karlsson is currently enjoying the best couple weeks of his life. On Tuesday, he signed a US$45.5-million, seven-year contract extension with the Senators and on July 7 he'll marry Therese, his longtime girlfriend.

He edged Nashville's Shea Weber and Boston's Zdeno Chara to win the Norris Trophy in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. It came after a breakout season that saw Karlsson rack up 78 points—25 more than any other blue-liner and the second-best total by a defenceman since the lockout.

His candidacy was a point of some debate in the hockey world, particularly since his offensive style was so different from the physical, defensively sound game played by Chara and Weber.

However, the Bruins captain believes the choice came down to a matter of individual taste.

"Everybody likes something (different)," said Chara. "You have three cars in front of you: you have the BMW, you have the Mercedes and you have the Porsche. A hundred people are going to like the Mercedes, a hundred people are going to like the BMW and the rest are going to like the Porsche.

"Every guy is a winner maybe in the different worlds of each different group of writers."

Karlsson is the youngest winner of the award since Denis Potvin took home the first of his three Norris Trophies in 1976. He was also 22.

The moment clearly overwhelmed Karlsson, who gave a short acceptance speech and forgot to thank his family.

"I'm probably going to have to look at the tape a couple of times to really figure out what happened," he said. "It's just a lot of fun right now and I'm going to enjoy myself."

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