Devin Shore has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I wrote about him.
At first sight earlier in the year, he looked like he had a lot of untapped potential and was still finding his way, which could very well be true since he is a Freshman. After a huge weekend double header against Boston University, it appears as though that is no longer a problem.
Through both games, a 3-3 tie and 4-3 overtime loss, Shore was absolutely dominant and may have been the best skater on the University of Maine Black Bears and perhaps from either team. Aside from the points, 2 on Friday and 3 on Saturday including a goal on Friday that was taken away, Shore showed a ton of poise and leadership.
Maine went down by two goals in the first period and while many players may not have thrived in that situation, Shore elevated his game and ran the play most of the time he was on the ice for the rest of the game. On Saturday Maine went down again, and again Shore picked up a lot of the slack and played extremely hard for the rest of the game, helping to pull his team out of their hole and take BU to overtime.
As he said after the game, the biggest strength in his game is his smarts and ability to distribute the puck, but he isn't a pure set-up center. He's big and strong, so he uses his body to push the play forward and does a great job of protecting the puck along the boards and, while not extremely fast, isn't afraid to pick up speed through the neutral zone and lead the rush.
I think one of the best adjectives to describe Devin Shore would bee sneaky or surprising because he doesn't always look like as much of a threat as some of the other guys on the ice, but somehow he always manages to do positive things on the ice. There were a few times in both games over the weekend where it seemed like he was getting into a bit too tight of a spot in a corner or along the boards to be able to keep the puck, yet almost every time he managed to stickhandle his way out of it or create enough space to have a split second to make a pass that didn't seem to be there. It's this deceptiveness which makes him so dangerous on every shift. Since he isn't the flashiest of players it seems like defenders someitmes lose him a bit away from the puck and then he quickly gets into a good position from which to dish the puck back off or take a shot.
On top of that, Shore backs-up his puck skill with gritty physical play and a willingness to get in front of the net for deflections and rebounds which is uncommon in a lot of playmaking centers with similar skill sets. Instead of being simply a skill player, Shore is a great hybrid of playmaker and power forward; he uses his size and strength to out-muscle players and get into good position and then turns on the playmaking to create great chances, it's a really interesting style of play and his versatility can only mean good things moving forward.
A great example of this are his two reviewed goals over the weekend. In last Friday's game, he scored what would have been the go ahead goal late on the power play when he was set up in the right circle on the power play for a great shot on net. While the puck did go in, it was eventually waved off because of an iffy crease violation called on one of his teammates.
In Saturday's game he came right back and scored his goal on a shorthanded rush. This one was a greasy beauty; after the intitial shot from the wing, BU goaltender Sean Maguire couldn't find the rebound since it was right behind his skate on the goal line. Shore rushed in with a head of steam, picked the puck out from between the goalie's legs and jammed it in. While a skilled playmaker, Shore showed no-hesitation in going for a puck and scoring a goal from behind the goaltender. This combination of grit and skill is exactly what the Stars have been looking to foster in their farm system and it looks like Devin Shore will come to fit that mold very well for them in the future.
On top of excellent offensive play, Devin Shore is trusted in all situations. He centers the top line at even strength, plays point on the powerplay, and even kills some penalties. While he doesn't get huge P.K minutes, he's trusted to go out there and play well defensively when his team goes down. He even got some shorthanded time in the dying minutes of the first game of the weekend series. This shows that while a freshman offensively minded forward, his coaches trust in his defensive abilities and his poise on the ice enough to put him in when the game is on the line and the team is a bit on their heals. Playing in all zones truly shows his skill, poise, hockey smarts and maturity level.
Devin Shore has flown somewhat under the radar since getting drafted by the Dallas Stars. This isn't a huge surprise given the amount of talent the Stars have injected into their farm system in the last couple of years and the fact that he's taking the road less traveled in playing U.S College hockey rather than Juniors.
That being said, Shore shows all the signs of being a talented prospect with some high end potential. He'll continue to get big minutes and improve for the next few years at the University of Maine but the way things are going for him and the way that he's working indicate that he'll have a legitimate shot at NHL playing time sooner than may be expected.