Following two years at the University of Michigan, Sens prospect Josh Norris made the decision to turn pro on Monday and signed his three-year, entry level contract with Ottawa.
Norris admitted that the season-ending injury he sustained during the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship as a member of Team USA was a bit of a factor in his decision but ultimately he felt ready to take the next step in his career.
"It was hard, I'm not going to lie," Norris said about leaving Michigan. "Obviously my injury had a little bit of influence on the decision and was something I had to take into consideration. I have a lot of great people around me who are so supportive, not only hockey-wise but off the ice too and we all thought that it would be best for me to turn pro. I'm really happy that I've made this decision now."
Norris had a strong start to his second season in the NCAA, compiling 19 points (10G, 9A) in 17 GP before being sidelined at the World Juniors in January. Now with the Senators in the midst of a rebuild, the time seemed right for Norris to join the bevvy of other young players in Ottawa and Belleville following his shortened sophomore season with the Wolverines.
"I feel like I'm ready for the next level," he said. "There a lot of opportunity with the Senators right now and I just want to get my foot in the door and prove to people the type of player that I am. It's exciting to chase after something that you've been working towards your whole life."
While Norris has some existing relationships with a few current Senators, including Colin White and Christian Wolanin, it's his long-time friendship with Brady Tkachuk that he is most excited about rekindling in Ottawa.
"He was one of the first people I talked to when I got traded," Norris recalled after being acquired by the Senators from the San Jose Sharks on Sept. 18th, 2018. "We keep in contact a lot so now that it's official, it's very exciting to be a part of an organization with your best friend."
Like Sens fans last year, Norris watched as Tkachuk put forth a solid rookie season in Ottawa and now as he prepares for his first foray into professional hockey, he's thankful to have such a close friend that can share some advice with him.
"We all know how good of a player he is but he still works hard every day," Norris said about Tkachuk. "He just told me about how hard you have to work and that it's a grind every day especially as a young guy coming into the league. He had high expectations for himself and he backed it up with how hard he worked."
The 20-year-old centre resumed skating about 3 weeks ago and is on pace to take part in Ottawa's Development Camp at the end of June but is expected to be limited to non-contact activities while he continues his recovery. Even with some limitations, Norris is excited to join a deep group of prospects on the ice in Ottawa for the first time,
"There are a lot of young guys in Ottawa and Belleville so it's nice to have guys that are similar in age," said Norris. "It's an exciting time in Ottawa right now. There is a lot of opportunity and guys are trying to make the most of everything. That's a great environment to be in. I'm competitive and want to get better every day so I think it will be a very exciting time when I'm there."