Josh Norris — a sophomore forward who ranks second on the Michigan hockey team in points — will miss the remainder of the season, the team announced Thursday morning.
Norris sustained an undisclosed injury at the 2019 World Junior Championships earlier this month and has not dressed for the Wolverines since returning from the tournament. His injury will require season-ending surgery.
“It’s disappointing to have my season end and I’m going to miss being on the ice with my teammates every day, but it’s something that I have to take care of,” Norris said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working hard during rehab and am excited to get back on the ice. I’m going to be here supporting my teammates throughout the rest of the season and wish them the best of luck.”
Norris’ 10 goals through the first part of the season is tied for first on the team with junior forward Nick Pastujov. His 19 total points rank second behind sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes, who has three goals and a team-leading 19 assists for a total of 22 points.
Prior to the World Juniors, Norris centered Michigan’s top line and was leading the team in points. He was the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, though his rights have since been traded to the Ottawa Senators.
“I feel bad for Josh. He was having an outstanding season,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson in a statement. “Knowing him, he will work extremely hard to come back stronger and become an even better player. We look forward to having Josh continue to be a part of our team this season.”
Both Pearson and Norris’ comments left the idea of whether Norris will be back with the Wolverines next season or sign with Ottawa open to interpretation, though Pearson said Thursday that he expects Norris to be back next year.
“We’ve had some conversations prior to the injury,” Pearson said Thursday in his office. “We haven’t discussed any of that since the injury because we want to focus him on getting healthy and that. But I do (think he’ll be back). Now, having said that, he might, he might not be. I mean, he’ll have options. We’ll just see how that plays out, how his recovery goes and how he thinks. What he wants to do.”
Moving forward, Michigan must find a replacement for Norris. It’s hard to replace him with just one player — and the Wolverines aren’t planning to try to do that.
But since they’ve been without him for six games already, Pearson has a better idea of what the team might look like in his absence. In the six games without Norris, Michigan posted a 2-2-2 record, including two road wins over top-15 teams in wins at No. 4 Ohio State and No. 12 Notre Dame.
“In that six games, I liked a lot of things without him,” Pearson said. “So, we’ve already played without him. I think that’s a key. If all of the sudden we just found out today, you’re going into a big weekend and wow, you don’t have him, then there’s a little more, I think, panic or concern. Because of that, I think we’ll be in good shape. You don’t replace — no one’s going to step up and replace a player like (Norris), especially how well he was playing.”
And though Norris is the second Wolverine in two years to miss the second half of the year after a season-ending injury at the World Juniors — junior forward Will Lockwood saw his sophomore campaign cut short after a shoulder injury last year — Pearson doesn’t plan to stop allowing players to attend the tournament.
“There’s some concern,” Pearson said. “But we’ve done it for years here at Michigan and I guess our stance is we’ll always do whatever we can to support U.S. hockey and especially the World Junior team, the World Championship team. If we have players that have the opportunity to play there, then we’ll continue to support that.”
This story has been updated since its original publication.