Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A hard-nosed two-way force with excellent skating ability, Josh Norris learned the game while living in Germany as his father Dwayne, a 1990 draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques, finished his professional playing career.
Norris may lack in world-class offensive talent, but he more than makes up for it with his all-around effort. He is very strong on the puck. His game is driven by sense, and when combined with a work ethic that often results in strong net drives, offers a projection as a player that will earn his points in more of a blue-collar manner.
If you look at the middle-line players on recent Stanley Cup-winning teams, that's essentially what Norris looks to bring to the lineup. His feet are moving with excellent lateral agility. His head is always up looking for his teammates. If he sees a seam, he takes it with exceptional quickness.
Norris brings extra value with high rates of success at both the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill. He is a very competent defender, supporting his defensemen low in the zone by employing a quick, active stick that helps him take away time and space. He's also shown a willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots.
This isn't to say that Norris can't be classified as an offensive player. He has plenty of skill to work with as evidenced by his 27 goals and 60 points in 61 games this past season with U.S. Under-18 Team. He just won't dazzle anyone with highlight-reel plays, instead leveraging his instincts and work ethic to score greasy goals near the paint.
Norris, who finished the season with another three goals and seven points in seven games as the United States captured the gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, will continue his education at the University of Michigan this fall.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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