It's not too often that hockey players get drafted right out of high school. But when you can skate as well as Jeff Norton could, NHL teams did not shy away.
Norton had fantastic skating ability. He had tremendous speed and mobility. He was an offensive defenseman at heart, always looking to join the attack if not carry the puck out of the zone and lead it himself.
He was much more of a playmaker than a scorer, which made him a nice asset on the power play point.
Defensively he had good size and his skating made it hard to get inside on him. He was not an imposing physical player by any means, but he showed up and competed effectively. He could be guilty of using his stick a little too liberally occasionally.
The New York Islanders drafted Norton 62nd overall in 1984. He went on three outstanding seasons at the University of Michigan but left a year early to play for the United States national team in 1987-88. By doing so he earned a spot on Team USA's Olympic squad for the Sarajevo games in 1988. Norton would complete his degree in sports management and communication in the coming off-seasons.
Norton signed with the Islanders immediately following the Olympics. But injuries would haunt him. He was seemingly always plagued by a series of hurts, ranging from a separated shoulder to torn wrist ligaments to a severe back strain. Despite putting up some impressive numbers and establishing himself as an intelligent defender with offensive upside.
After five seasons with the Islanders he requested and was granted a trade. He joined the San Jose Sharks, but in his second season he was moved again. This time he was sent to St. Louis to acquire Craig Janney.
Norton did not fit well in St. Louis with coach Mike Keenan at the helm. That marked the beginning of a well-travelled stage of his career. He would go on to play with Edmonton, Tampa, Florida, and return to San Jose for periods of less than two seasons. Late in his career he would play a handful of games with Pittsburgh, Boston and Florida, again.
In 799 career NHL games Jeff Norton scored 52 goals, 332 assists and 384 points.