The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Senators’ Norris viable candidate for Calder Trophy
OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators youth movement has paid dividends this season.
And, of all of the young players who have had the opportunity to suit up for Ottawa, centre Josh Norris has been among those that has made the biggest impact for the Senators.
Check the NHL’s rookie goal scoring leaders and there’s the 21-year-old Norris in third with 13 goals, just one behind Dallas winger Jason Robertson and Kirill Kaprizov of Minnesota, who have 14 goals apiece entering today’s action.
Nobody was sure what Norris would bring to the table this season and he’s been a bright light as this franchise continues to grow.
Norris’ third period effort on the power play turned out to be winner as the Senators knocked off the Calgary Flames 4-2 Monday night at the Saddledome. There’s no question Norris has put himself in the conversation for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie-of-the-year this spring and, yes, the competition is tough, but he’s pushing for a spot on the ballot.
“He’s done a heck of a job,” coach D.J. Smith said following the club’s win Monday night. “To play against all the top lines, and to provide offence, and now he’s going really good on the power play, he’s just had a phenomenal year. He’s a really good player that’s going to be a good player for this franchise for a long time.”
Smith has had no issue having Norris go head-to-head with the likes of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. The Senators continue this trip today against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena and that means Norris will be up against Bo Horvat.
When the Senators made the deal in Sept., 2018 that sent former Sen Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, the club insisted that Norris be part of it or there wasn’t going to be a deal. A No. 19 overall pick in 2017, the Senators felt Norris had the chance to be a second-line centre for this team for several years.
But, if you look at Norris’ trajectory since he turned pro before the start of the 201920 campaign, he’s done nothing but improve at every level he’s played. He had 31 goals and 61 points in 56 games with the club’s AHL affiliate in Belleville last season and this year he has 29 points in 46 games in the difficult allCanadian division.
Those who have watched Norris since he was with the U.S. National Development Team program as a 17-yearold in 2015-16 are a little taken aback by the success he’s having.
“I’ve watched Josh for a long time and I’ve always really liked Josh,” said Craig Button, a former NHL GM and TSN’s director of scouting, Monday. “As you watch him, you appreciate him more. That’s been the case for me as time went on. From watching him with the national development team program and watching him progress to how he handled things. I thought Josh really took steps ahead and then he ended up being a first-round draft pick.
“You watch him now, and you say, ‘Geez, he’s really good’. And, now he’s even better than I thought he was. I thought he’d be good, a very good player. I watched him last year in the American league and I thought, ‘Holy crap’. Last year, I’m watching him and he’s better than I thought he was. This year, I’m watching him and he’s better than I thought he was last year. I’m not so sure in a year’s time I’m going to be thinking that he’s better than I thought he was last year.”
That really speaks to the fact Norris has continued to progress since he left the University of Michigan.
“He’s got an approach like Patrice Bergeron to the game. He just quietly (goes about his business),” Button added. “D.J. puts him out against the other team’s top centre’s and doesn’t pause or hesitate. Josh just keeps getting better and better. His approach is, ‘This is what you need me to do? I’ve got it. No problem.’
“Personally, there’s a lot more growth in his game and that’s what’s scary about Josh Norris.”