Josh Norris is a No.1 Centre in the NHL

Josh Norris
OTTAWA, ON - MAY 5: Josh Norris #9 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Canadian Tire Centre on May 5, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

After coming off a strong rookie campaign where he finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting, Josh Norris is entering his sophomore season as Ottawa’s No.1 centre. The conversation around the Senators organization, and among hockey analysts, is whether Norris is capable of handling top line centre duties, or if his game fits more as a second line option behind a player with more star potential. 

I will come right out and say it; Josh Norris is a No.1 centre in the NHL. 

After putting up over a point per game at the University of Michigan, and coming off major shoulder surgery, Norris went on to lead the AHL’s Belleville Senators in points, taking home the leagues top rookie award, before making the jump to the NHL. Entering Senators training camp last season, Norris was expected to be sent back to the AHL before playing his way onto the team. At 22 years old, he not only played his way onto the team, he played his way into the top centre position. 

Norris put up 17 goals and 35 points in his rookie season in the NHL, a 0.63 PPG clip, and played in all 56 games. I watched every one of those 56 games and there is no doubt in my mind he was one of the best players on the ice in each and every one of them. Even after this impressive season, he is still not getting enough league-wide recognition for his talents. 

Take a look at his analytics from his rookie season:

Proj. WAR% – 93%

EV Offence – 73%

EV Defence – 85%

PP – 86%

Finishing – 89%

These are ridiculous analytical numbers for a top line, rookie, center on a, let’s face it, less than stellar Ottawa team. Norris has already demonstrated he can put the puck in the net at the NHL level, and, as we can see from the numbers, doesn’t sacrifice defence in order to achieve this. Just because he is a scoring center and not a playmaking centre, does not mean he cannot contribute the same amount as any other top line players in the NHL.

I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind the argument that he isn’t a #1 centre. I understand he wasn’t a top prospect when drafted, but he has excelled at every level of hockey he has played, and even put up better rookie season numbers (0.63 PPG) than Nick Suzuki (0.58 PPG). Yet Suzuki is often compared to Patrice Bergeron and Norris is constantly doubted. I understand there are differences in that Norris was able to play top line minutes right away, but even in the past, shortened, season, Suzuki only had six more points than Norris did. With such similar offensive numbers, and both strong defensively, how is one being compared to a first ballot hall of famer and one isn’t good enough to be the number one centre on the Ottawa Senators. 

To finish off, I’ll throw this in just for fun; Ryan O’Reilly in his 22 age year:

Proj. WAR% – 93%

EV Offence – 68%

EV Defence – 83%

PP – 73%

Finishing – 87%

Those numbers look eerily similar to Norris’ above.

Josh Norris is a #1 centre in the NHL.

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