Let’s be honest, these predictions probably aren’t going to come true. But we’ll look so damn cool if they do.
Acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Erik Karlsson trade, Josh Norris is a sensationally talented hockey player. A member of the Michigan Wolverines, he’s so fast, and his skill with the puck on his stick is second to few NHL prospects. Norris also took a step forward this year, solidifying himself as a top two-way NCAA forward. If you need any more proof, check out this awesome highlight package by Sens Prospects:
Though a shoulder surgery some time after the World Juniors cut his college season short, my Bold Prediction is that Josh Norris is going to make the Ottawa Senators’ opening night roster. There are a couple reasons behind this, so let’s get into it.
One is the fact that the Sens are sorely missing a truly skilled centre. Colin White is a fantastic player, but he’s not quite the same type of player as a Matt Duchene or a Jason Spezza. They need a centre who can start the breakout with speed, and move the puck to scoring wingers like Anthony Duclair. And, of course, a player who can finish those opportunities himself.
With 19 points in 17 games with the Wolverines this year, and 6 points in 7 games at the WJC, Norris is looking more and more like that kind of player. He has the speed and the skill to make plays, and his production has been consistent at every level of play.
The Senators have White, J.G. Pageau, Chris Tierney, Artem Anisimov, and hopefully Logan Brown up the middle this season. While those five are almost unquestionably NHLers, they have yet to show the capability to be top-end NHL playmakers. White is close, with 41 points last season, but Norris’ skillset makes him a likely candidate to be that player for Ottawa.
There’s also the physical component. Norris played this year at 6’1”, 192 lbs. Provided he put on some weight over the summer, as players often do (though surgery may have provided a setback), the youngster is certainly NHL-sized. It’s not necessary to be big in the league anymore, but it certainly helps, especially when you have the speed and skill of Josh Norris.
For perspective’s sake, Norris is about the same size as Chris Tierney. Couple that with the fact that he plays a better two-way game, and will likely end up with higher levels of point production, and this is a player to be excited about.
The obvious roadblock to a Norris opening night debut would be the Senators’ logjam up the middle. As previously stated, White, Pageau, Tierney, and Anisimov are all established NHLers. Logan Brown is pounding on the door as well, so for Norris to see NHL action in October, he needs to make himself invaluable.
Again, he has the tools to be more skilled than the others, but special teams could end up winning him a job. It’s no secret that the PP and PK have been sore spots in Ottawa for a couple years now, so if Norris can use his skill to drive powerplay production, and his speed to kill penalties in camp, D.J. Smith might be left with no choice but to keep him around.
It will depend on how well he’s recovered from his injury, and obviously on the performances of his in-camp competitors, but the more I think about it, the less bold this prediction feels. Is the chance of it happening minimal? Definitely, but I really believe that Josh Norris has the tools to have a long, and successful career in the NHL.
Who’s to say that it can’t start opening night?