Player: Josh Norris
Height: 6’1” Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: USA NTDP U18
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 34th among North American skaters
What I Like
Norris is a tough competitor that is willing to engage physically to win puck battles. He fights through contact well with the puck and is willing to go into tough areas to make plays.
Norris is a strong skater that isn’t easily pushed off the puck. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s a good enough four-direction skater that he’s capable of playing the center position at the next level.
Smart two-way player
Another reason Norris has the potential to stay at the center position throughout his career is because of his play on both ends of the ice. He competes hard on the defensive end and plays a responsible game.
What I Don’t Like
Norris will put up some points; he was second in NTDP scoring this past season. But a lot of his offense comes from driving hard to the net and winning battles for loose pucks, and creating opportunities by chasing the play. That’s not a bad thing, but a lack of high-end offensive thought limits his potential to play more of a scoring role at the next level.
Norris a north-south type of player that is more likely to bull his way through a defender than dangle around him. His ability to handle the puck is fine, but it’s not an area of strength, and he sometimes struggles to handle difficult passes.
Most projections seems to have Norris just outside of the top thirty. In most years, I’d say that is just about right. Norris is an excellent player, but probably lacks the top line upside teams are looking for in a first round draft choice. This year though, I’m not sure there will be better alternatives available. And working off the theory that the NTDP almost always does a little better than expected in the first round of the Draft, and that Norris is a little more valuable because of his potential to play center at the pro level, there’s a chance Norris could be selected on the first day. I would expect him to be picked somewhere in the range of picks 25-40.
Norris is headed to the University of Michigan next season. In recent years, the Wolverines have had a habit of taking prospects out of the NTDP that were very good, hard-working players, but not known for their scoring ability—Dylan Larkin, JT Compher, Tyler Motte, Will Lockwood— and having them greatly increase their value by becoming big-time scorers at the college level. It’s unclear how much that might change with Mel Pearson taking over for Red Berenson as head of the Michigan program, but it’s worth considering since Norris definitely fits that mold. He’s also walking into a situation where he should be Michigan’s top center from day one, so he’ll get lots of opportunity to develop.
As a player comparison, Norris reminds me a lot of JT Compher. Both are super-competitive two-way centers. Compher was ranked right around the same range for the NHL Draft(he ended up going 35th overall in 2012) after putting up similar numbers with the NTDP. Compher blew up offensively in his junior season at Michigan, thanks in part to some great linemates, but still projects as more of a solid role player at the NHL level. The same is likely true for Norris. He projects as a nice player at the NHL level, especially if he can remain at the center position, but one that probably tops out as a second or third line player, rather than a true star.