The Los Angeles Kings are off to one of their greatest starts in franchise history, and while they have received plenty of support from their biggest names, it has been a contribution-by-committee method used towards said success. That includes the club’s unsung talent which has flown under the radar of many to put — and keep — the silver-and-black in the win column. Nick Shore is the epitome of the latter.
A native of Denver, Colo., Shore was drafted by the Kings in the third round of the 2011 Draft. By that point, Shore, now 23, finished up his first collegiate season with his hometown University of Denver Pioneers.
Shore would spend two more seasons at Denver before moving up to the AHL where he suited up for the Manchester Monarchs in 2013-14. That year, he netted 20 goals and 42 points in 38 games. By the following season, the centerman would finish the campaign with the Kings on a full-time basis.
Yet, while he has turned into an integral part of the Kings success thus far, Shore had a slow start to his NHL career. In 34 games last season, the youngster had just one goal and six assists. This season, while his two goals and four assists in 39 games doesn’t seem like much on paper, the 23-year-old has been a solid presence on the ice, fighting for pucks, crashing the net and creating chemistry with multiple linemates.
I recently spoke with Kings assistant GM Rob Blake about Shore’s progress thus far.
“If you have followed Nick’s career, he has been able to make each step in his development with the same pattern,” Blake noted. “It starts with a good solid smart understanding of the game. He is very reliable in defensive zone. This pattern was similar at the AHL level last year. The challenge then was to put up offensive numbers along with a solid defensive game. He was able to do that the first part of the season in the AHL.”
That first part of the season the Kings’ assistant GM was referring to was 2014-15 when Shore notched 42 points in 38 games. The rapid efficiency rate earned the Denver native a call-up to Los Angeles, and he has never looked back.
One particular area where Shore has shown vast improvement from last season to this has been his puck-possession skills. An instrumental area in the Kings’ success in recent years, puck possession gives the silver-and-black arguably the best opportunity to win games on a consistent basis — and so far, they have done just that. As for Shore, while his Corsi rating of 51.3 per cent last season was good, it pales in comparison to his 58.2 percentage this season. Shore has even dished out 55 hits this season, which isn’t too bad for a 6-foot-1, 194-pounder.
As far as creating chemistry with linemates goes, Shore has developed quite the rapport with Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson. While Shore’s duos haven’t been lighting the lamp at will, there has nonetheless been a great deal of synergy between teammates when Los Angeles’s No. 21 is involved. Brown, for one, has become more active in recent weeks who, like Shore, has been fighting for loose pucks and crashing the net in addition to getting under the opposition’s skin. Gaborik and Pearson, while they have developed great chemistry with each other, have certainly benefited from sharing a line with Shore as both, like Brown, have countered their early-season struggles with solid play as of late.
Shore has even had to adapt to different roles when Jeff Carter was sidelined.
“Nick has had to play with different wingers,” Blake continued. “Part of the success of this team is based on players understanding roles and being able to adapt to different linemates.”
Nick Shore has adapted extremely well.
With each of the aforementioned considered, arguably the most glaring of Shore’s assets is his expertise in the faceoff circle. Believed to be, for all intents and purposes, Jarret Stoll‘s replacement, the sophomore has come into his own and excelled in the faceoff dot.
“To be a center on the Kings you have to be reliable in the faceoff circle. Nick has demonstrated that from day one,” Blake said. “He has worked with the Kings development team in that area both at the AHL and NHL level.”
While his 51.9 faceoff percentage this season is down from his 53.8 per cent last season, it is specific situations where Shore has been able to win faceoffs in.
One such area is when the Kings are on the power play. In 16 faceoff attempts on the man-advantage, Shore has won 12 faceoffs. In addition, his 52.1 rating during a tie game is crucial in itself, not only giving his team crucial opportunities to take the lead but preventing the opposing team from having their chance to get out in front.
From this writer’s vantage point, Nick Shore has developed into one of the most consistent Kings in terms of solid effort. He gives it his all on any given night and while he may not always be able to get his name on the scoresheet, opposing teams cannot go a period without having to deal with the University of Denver alum. This especially includes in the faceoff dot, in the corners and in front of the net.
Unfortunately for Shore, with Carter back from injury in addition to Vincent Lecavalier’s acquisition, Shore has been a healthy scratch in recent games. That should not deter the youngster, though, as it is only a matter of time before he gets reinserted into the Kings lineup.
This writer admittedly wasn’t too impressed with him last year but that is more the commonality of a rookie than a criticism. Nonetheless, Shore has made up for that and then some as yours truly is now sold on the centerman and what he brings to the table for the Los Angeles Kings.
You ought to be as well.