Coming in as our 30th ranked prospect in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is US NTDP centre Joshua Norris.
Norris led the USNTDP in point per game rate but was actually ranked 34th amongst North American skaters by NHL central scouting. That ranking is a bit low given the skill set he possesses. He was good all year long but likely suffered from the program not having a super elite prospect.
Norris could hear his name called on the first day of the draft in Chicago, or he will be quickly snapped up in the second round.
- Age: 18-years-old, 1999-05-05
- Birthplace: Oxford, MI, USA
- Position: C
- Handedness: L
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 192 lbs
- Draft Year Team: USNDTP
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He can hammer a puck. He can skate. He’s got a great first step. He competes, and he’s coachable. He’s got a lot going for him. I think he’s got a great deal of God-given talent. He is a heck of a kid and extremely coachable. Those items right there lead up to a player who has some ability and a bright future.
There’s a lot to like about the way Norris plays the game. He’s a good skater with a very strong frame. He shifts his weight really well to protect the puck allowing him to bring the puck through the neutral zone and gain zone entry. He plays a hard-nosed two-way game, and is comfortable at the center position, which increases his draft value. The downside is that Norris lacks elite hands and finishing ability. He’ll create opportunities by driving hard to the net with or without the puck, but has trouble with difficult passes and isn’t likely to make a skill play to create offense.
I mentioned off the top that the USNTDP didn’t really have an elite prospect this year and that appears to have hurt some of the stock of these players, Norris included. They simply didn’t have a Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller or Matthew Tkachuk to carry the offence. It was more a scoring by committee.
That likely creates a false perception of what this years crop is, and that is still very good prospects. Norris is a really good 200 foot player with good acceleration and edge work. His top speed isn’t the greatest but he isn’t left behind, and gets to that speed faster than others. He is a good player maker who uses his vision and passing abilities to make his teammates better. His shot is good, but like any other prospect, will need to add strength which in turn will improve his shot.
His defensive game is very good – he is willing to do anything to defend and help his team win. Norris likely develops into an effective middle six centre who can help his team in all situations.
Norris started the season a bit slow, but from the mid point on, he took off. He was extremely noticeable at the U18 WJHC in April, posting 7 points (3-4-7) in 7 games. His 1.00 PPG rate compares favourably with Colin White (1.00 PPG in 14-15) and Christian Fischer (0.98 PPG in ’14-15).
Norris averaged 2.70 shots per game throughout the season, which was ranked first amongst 2017 draft eligible players. He was only bested by Brady Tkachuk, who is eligible for the 2018 draft because he was born one day after the cutoff. (ouch)
Basically, Norris’ season was very encouraging and makes the NHL CSS ranking seem a little low. The argument could be made that Norris doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he has produced fairly well through his development, has shown well in international tournaments and the shot rates.
pGPS sheds a very bright light on Norris with 41.5% of comparable players going onto becoming NHL players with R.J. Umberger and Kyle Okposo being the closest matches. That’s an encouraging sign and percentage for a late first or early second round selection.
Obviously there is a wide array of roles for his co-horts but that success rate is still very encouraging. The expected points per 82 games of 53.9 points is a very good mark for someone of his skillset and ilk.
Norris is an intriguing option in the latter parts of the first round. He does everything he can help to help his team without sacrificing offence. He can play in all situations, has the frame for the NHL and has speed.
With some further development and patience, Norris could seem like a great selection. Even if that is in the early 20’s.
Norris is committed to the University of Michigan for next season..