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Competitiveness driving Norris during rookie season

by Matt Tidcombe @matttidcombe

With five games left in the season, Josh Norris currently leads all qualified NHL rookies in faceoff percentage.

He sits third in NHL rookie scoring and his 15 goals are tied for the second most among first year players.

And it comes down to one word: competitiveness.

"I think everything in the NHL comes down to competitiveness," Sens head coach D.J. Smith said. "The most competitive people are the ones that have the most success. He's a really competitive guy. If he has a bad night, you can see he wears it a little bit and that's part of being young, but he goes right back to work and works harder.

"He's continued to get better but I would say it's his competitiveness that allows him to get better daily."

Norris himself was pleased to hear that praise from his head coach.

"I think that's fair to say and I appreciate him saying that and it's nice to hear that," he said. "I definitely consider myself a very competitive person. It's the work I put in every day and I try to bring that competitiveness every game."

In 51 games this year, Norris has taken 641 faceoffs, winning 336 of them for a 52.4 per cent success rate. Gabriel Valardi of the Kings and Chicago's Pius Suter are the other two qualified rookies in the faceoff category and they both sit well below 50 per cent.

"I work on it a lot and switch it up and not always do the same things every time," Norris said about his faceoff tactics.

Even when the Sens are on the road and don't have the luxury of the last change, Norris continues to win draws as he owns a 50.8 per cent success rate away from Canadian Tire Centre. At home, his percentage is 54.1.

In a year where the Sens have faced just their fellow Canadian teams, it's given Norris the chance to go against some of the NHL's best centremen in Leon Draisaitl, Bo Horvat, Elias Lindholm, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele and John Tavares, among others. And that, regardless of outcome, is a remedy to help improve your game.

"It's been a good learning year," Norris said. "The last 20-30 games, I think I've been able to elevate my game and take what I've learned and implement that to my own game and do the things I do well like skate, make plays, shoot the puck [and] be a good 200-foot player.

"I think I've done that and I've created my own confidence for myself and with the situations I've been put in it certainly helps a lot too. It's a good spot right now and I just want to keep on getting much better."

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