Josh Norris is packing up his skates and heading to Canada to pursue his dream of playing professional hockey.
Last week, it was announced the 20-year-old Oxford native signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators, part of the Atlantic Division in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
“It’s an exciting time,” Norris said. “It’s something every kid (who plays hockey) works for.”
Originally, Norris was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (19th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. His rights were acquired by Ottawa as part of a trade on Sept. 13, 2018.
According to the Senators’ website, Norris will take part in the team’s development camp, which is scheduled to open on June 25. Norris is expected to be “limited to non-contact activities” at camp while he continues to recover from a shoulder injury he sustained in January while playing in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Vancouver as a member of Team USA.
Norris underwent corrective surgery about two weeks after the injury and is still undergoing rehabilitation, but he said for the most part, his shoulder is feeling “really good” these days.
He resumed skating about four weeks ago.
“I’m a little bit further ahead in my (recovery) schedule than they thought I would be, so that’s obviously great news,” Norris said.
He’s looking forward to spending the summer completing his rehab and “getting back into shape” so he’s ready to go when Ottawa holds its training camp in the fall.
There’s plenty of opportunity for Norris to potentially make a name for himself with the Senators as the team is in the midst of rebuilding itself after a dismal 2018-19 season. Ottawa had a 29-47 record, finished last in the eight-team Atlantic Division and finished 31st (last place) in the NHL.
For the last two years, Norris played as a forward for the University of Michigan. During that time, he scored 42 points (18 goals and 24 assists) for the Wolverines in 54 games.
Before his sophomore season was cut short by his injury, Norris had a seven-game streak in which he scored 12 points (6 goals and 6 assists).
Although he only played 17 games in the 2018-19 season, Norris managed to record at least a point in 14 appearances. He scored a total of 19 points (10 goals and 9 assists). Despite missing more than half of the Wolverines’ games last season, Norris tied for sixth on the team in points and ranked fourth in goals.
Leaving college early for the pros is something Norris expected to do.
“It was just a matter of what year and when I felt ready,” he said.
He is grateful for his time at Michigan as it helped him develop as both a player and a person. “I thought I matured off the ice more than anything,” Norris said.
Norris has been working toward becoming a professional hockey player for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always had a passion for it,” he said.
He grew up around the sport as his father, Dwayne Norris, played in the pros from 1992 to 2007. Dwayne’s career included two NHL teams, the Quebec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche) and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, as well as two pro teams in Germany. Dwayne was part of Canada’s silver medal team in the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway.
“Obviously, he’s the main reason that I got into hockey. I grew up watching him play,” Norris said.
Norris said his father has been there for him every step of the way, encouraging him and even coaching him when he was a member of the Oakland Junior Grizzlies Hockey Club’s 12U, 14U and 16U teams.
“He’s been very supportive my whole life,” he said.
To all those young athletes out there dreaming of turning pro someday, Norris said one of the keys to taking things to the next level is “dedicating yourself” to the sport, which means putting in the work and making sacrifices, like cutting back on your social life.
Norris said doing things like that “will add up in the end.”
He knows it’s still way too early to start talking about the possibility of him someday hoisting the Stanley Cup as part of a championship team, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting it.
“It’s definitely something on my bucket list,” he said.