After just two years with the University of Michigan, Josh Norris has decided to turn pro. The Ottawa Senators today announced a three-year entry-level contract for Norris, who was acquired as part of the package for Erik Karlsson last summer. Senators GM Pierre Dorion released a statement on his newest forward:
Josh is one of the organization’s top prospects, a fast, skilled, competitive center who we project to play an important role with our team in the future. In speaking with Josh and his family, we were all in agreement that it is in the best interests of his development to make the step to turn professional after two great seasons at Michigan. We are very happy to have Josh signed and look forward to having him here at development camp in June.
Norris, 20, unfortunately missed a good chunk of the 2018-19 season due to injury and played just 17 games for the Michigan Wolverines. He was still able to make a big impact however, recording 10 goals and 19 points in those games while also helping Team USA to a silver medal at the World Juniors. The 19th overall pick in 2017, Norris is considered a polished two-way center that should be able to contribute at the professional level right away. Whether that comes in the NHL or AHL this year will be determined in camp, but there’s little doubt that he will get to Ottawa eventually.
While many pointed to Rudolfs Balcers at the time of the trade as one of the biggest keys, given his proximity to the NHL—Balcers would score 14 points in 36 games as a rookie in 2018-19—Norris was a huge part of the deal. His development will always be tied to Karlsson’s departure, putting even more pressure on him moving forward. That kind of pressure hasn’t seemed to distract him so far in his young hockey career, as Norris has routinely been among the best players at every level of competition including internationally and in college.
Interestingly, there may be an opportunity in the NHL right away for a player of his talents. While there is obviously a case to be made for some more seasoning in the minor leagues, the Senators currently have just five forwards signed to one-way contracts for 2019-20 (not including the injured Marian Gaborik or Clarke MacArthur). That leaves a lot of room for competition among the team’s prospect pool, and Norris should have every chance to earn a spot on opening day.