Previewing The Battle Between Josh Norris and Logan Brown at Senators Camp

BRIDGEPORT, CT - MARCH 23: Logan Brown #22 of the Belleville Senators looks to pass during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on March 23, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CT - MARCH 23: Logan Brown #22 of the Belleville Senators looks to pass during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on March 23, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images) /

With training camp on the horizon, the Ottawa Senators are set to allow 31 players in the organization to battle it out for spots on the 2020-21 season roster

A key battle when the Senators enter training camp for fans to keep an eye on will be between two of the club’s young centermen, Josh Norris and Logan Brown.

Throughout the past few years, Senators GM Pierre Dorion has made the center position a priority and has addressed filling it via the draft, or through trade. Norris and Brown are both examples of this. The Erik Karlsson trade brought many faces to Ottawa from San Jose, that are now very familiar to Senators fans. One of them being Josh Norris, a Sharks first-rounder in 2017, who was the best player for AHL affiliate Belleville last season. Logan Brown has born and bred in house, after being selected 11th overall in the 2016 draft.

The upcoming training camp provides an opportunity like no other for both of these players, as NHL spots are essentially up for grabs, as well as important minutes in the team’s top six. Neither player has really had more than a cup of coffee in the NHL, so the expectation is that both will be energized and eager to prove their value to the Senators.

Colin White and Chris Tierney are the only established centers currently plying their trade with the big club. Artem Anisimov is another option up the middle, but it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be shifted to the wing, or will act as the team’s 13th forward, given his age and trajectory. Given this, plus the fact that Norris and especially Brown have a bit more seniority over other prospects in the system like Tim Stuetzle, the young Americans should have plenty of reason to believe they’ll be on the opening night roster. It just depends on what their roles will be.

All signs point towards Logan Brown being the one who really receives an extended look playing at the top of the line-up, while Norris might have to wait his turn. At 22-years-old, this season continues to look like a make or break season for the former Windsor Spitfire. Fans have grown increasingly frustrated with the player, as injuries and inconsistency have hampered his ability to transform into the top-line talent that many projected him to be.

Brown definitely does still have a good skill-set and has shown flashes of his ability to take over games at the AHL level. He had 28 points in 25 games at that level in 2019-20. In terms of what he projects to be now, Brown could still be a top-six fixture in the coming years. He’s a massive force at 6’6 and has shown the ability to run a power-play, which is something the Senators desperately need.

In the NHL last year, Brown had 1 goal and 7 assists in 23 games, which left many fans pretty dissatisfied. If he is to cement a spot in the Senators‘ top-six, let alone the NHL, Brown will need to round out his game, and for the first time in his young career, get some luck on the injury side of things.

On the other hand, it’s safe to say Josh Norris has exceeded the expectations of Senators fans. Many projected him to have a middle-sex ceiling after a disappointing post-draft year with the University of Michigan, which convinced the San Jose Sharks that he was expendable enough to include in the trade for Erik Karlsson.

However, since the move to the Canadian capital, Norris has excelled on all fronts. After a rebound year with the Wolverines, Norris exploded in 2019-20, with 61 points in 56 games with AHL Belleville. He was recognized by the league as the most outstanding rookie and was given the Dudley Garrett Memorial Award.

Senators fans have a lot to be excited for with this player, as his stock seems like it just continues to rise. He went from somebody that the team hoped would compete for a roster spot in 2-3 years, to an NHL player by the end of the season. Norris’ compete level and improvement has impressed scouts, and he’s the type of player that the city and front office will love for many years.

Comparing the situations of these players that have just been described, pains two ends of the spectrum. One player who has exceeded every expectation of him, and another who just hasn’t been able to hit any of them yet. However, this shouldn’t at all factor into their battle for minutes in training camp.

An important factor between these two is their relationship with head coach D.J Smith. It’s too early to speculate what Smith thinks of a prospect like Norris, but Logan Brown’s 23 game NHL stint proved that minutes for either player will have to be earned. After beginning his NHL trip in the top-six, Brown was moved further down the line-up due to his inconsistency and ended up only averaging 11:45 of ice-time with Ottawa. It’s been seen on many occasions that this philosophy will apply to all youngsters on the Sens roster.

Norris is likely to be given a bit more leash by the front office and fans for how he has produced in the past year, whereas expectations for Brown to step-up remain firm, and any other veers off-course likely won’t be met well by any party.

Whatever the allocation for minutes winds up being down the middle for Ottawa, the team will have to be cautious as to how they are using these players. It’s simply not worth having either of these two in the NHL if they’re not playing important minutes. It’s more beneficial to the development of both to play in Belleville, as opposed to on the fourth line.

This makes the battle between these two all the more important, as it very well could decide who gets to play in the NHL. Either way, Senators fans should be excited, as the team has two players here who will be motivated in camp and in the regular season to show their quality. And if this rebuild has shown anything, it’s that individual players thrive when they have something to play for.