By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Just 23 days after celebrating his 21st birthday, Oxford native and Belleville (Ontario) Senators center Josh Norris added one of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) most prestigious awards to his collection on May 28, receiving the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award.
Voted on by players, coaches, and members of the media from each of the AHL’s 31 franchises, the award is presented annually to the league’s most outstanding rookie.
Tallying 61 points in 56 games for the Senators in 2019-20, the third-most in the league, Norris is the first player in Senators history to receive the honor. His 31 goals were not only the most by a rookie in team history, but the most in a single-season for a Senator.
The son of former National Hockey League (NHL) right winger Dwayne Norris, who appeared in 20 games with the Quebec Nordiques and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from 1993-96, the younger Norris received his promotion to the Ottawa Senators on February 22, with his debut coming at the Senators’ home arena, Canadian Tire Centre, against the Montreal Canadiens.
Coincidentally, his final appearance of the 2019-20 campaign came on February 29 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Like the Red Wings, Ottawa did not qualify for the NHL’s potential expanded postseason and will participate in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
Committing to then-head coach Red Berenson’s Michigan Wolverines on September 21, 2016, Norris played two seasons in Ann Arbor under Mel Pearson, who took over following Berenson’s retirement, registering 42 points in 54 games.
Selected by the San Jose Sharks with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Norris’ rights were traded to the Senators on September 13, 2018, as part of a package that landed two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in San Jose.
Posting a record of 25-34-12, Ottawa recorded 62 points in 2019-20, finishing in 15th-place in the 16-team Eastern Conference.
Belleville, on the other hand, had a more successful season, leading the AHL’s North Division with 81 points at the time of the season’s cancellation on May 11. It is the first time in the league’s 84-year history the Calder Cup will not be awarded.
By Teddy Rydquist