Devin Shore, a second round pick (61st overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry draft, has reached the midway point of his Freshman season at the University of Maine (NCAA, Hockey East). He currently has seven points, consisting of 1 goal and 6 assists in 15 games, and has found himself playing on the top line for the Black Bears who have been struggling mightily this year. At 6'0 186 lbs he's about average height and weight, but he plays a big game and contributes well at both ends of the ice. Seven points may not seem like a lot, but the NCAA isn't the highest scoring of leagues and Hockey East boasts a few very good defenses with great goaltending.
Casey DeSmith (University of New Hampshire), Matt O'Connor (Boston University), Parker Milner (Boston College), Rasmus Tirronen (Merrimack), and Jon Gillies (Providence), have all gone to great lengths to shut down opposing teams, and Maine has been a victim of more than a couple close games where they were just barely edged out.
In last weekend's game against BU, Maine outplayed the Terriers in all three zones and lost a game they deserved to win 1-0 thanks to BU Freshman Sean Maguire's second shutout in as many games. I was at the game and saw some mixed things in Shore's game.
Unfortunately, he was all but invisible for the first half of the game. He made a couple of good breakout passes and took a couple hits to make plays but was overall pretty ineffective. I didn't see him on the ice for most of the second half of the first period; the last shift he was out he took a huge hit and went down hard, so I'm not sure if there was an injury question or if he was having equipment problems, or if his coach was just trying to light a fire under him.
To be clear, he was invisible on the offensive side, I did notice that he played good positional defense, he was usually the third man high on the forecheck and made sure to get back to his own zone quickly during the transition. While he didn't make any astounding defensive plays, he didn't have to because he used his body and his reach to effectively eliminate passing lanes and make sure the BU forwards couldn't push the puck out into the slot for high percentage chances, so the beginning of the game wasn't all bad for him.
He really started to show up in the third period, leading a Maine attack that had quite a few good opportunities but ultimately failed to produce. He's definitely a pass-first forward; even though he played wing for most of the game (I'm not sure why), when he came down into the zone on the rush he always had his head on a swivel looking for teammates to dish to and he made a couple good passes. Where he really excelled, in my opinion, was in the cycle game down low. Like I said above, he's about average size, but he looks much bigger than he is and he definitely plays with the mentality of a skilled power-forward. While a bit lanky and a bit of an awkward skater, he's deceptively quick in tight spaces and often victimized BU's defense by rushing down the wing, skating in towards the slot and then pulling up to look for a pass.
His best sequence was about half-way through the period when he and Maine Captain Joey Diamond had a good cycle going in the corner to the left of the BU net. Both guys got in there and got chippy, fighting for pucks and then skating back up the boards to dump it back and look for another pass. I would have liked to see him try to drive the net on that sequence, however, as he seemed a bit too content to simply continue cycling. Eventually a pass didn't connect and BU was able to take the puck and break out the other way, but he was probably the best on his line at keeping the pressure down-low during that sequence and for the a good portion of the last period. He only got a couple shots off the whole game, but as I said he kept looking for the pass. It would have been nice to see him use his size more to try to drive towards the net and create his own chances.
Overall he had a decent game and really showed why he has been relied on to contribute on Maine's top line for most of the season and their offense's inability to put any points up was certainly not his fault. He played in multiple situations, getting some minutes on the powerplay and at even strength. He did a good job on the PK, clogging up passing lanes and keeping pressure on the BU defensemen who are the focal point of the powerplay. He isn't the fastest skater so he didn't win many one-on-one battles for loose pucks, but he did a good job of recovering to at least put himself in a good position to prevent the BU players who beat him to take advantage of won puck-battles.
He clearly has potential, but he's also clearly a freshman in a new league and it's going to take some time for him to get completely used to the style of play and become consistent both from game to game and period to period. It bodes well for the Stars that he's trusted in all situations by his coach and that he's worked hard enough to earn himself top-line minutes. He's become a positive in a season full of negatives for the University of Maine hockey program and part of his inconsistency offensively can be attributed to Maine's continued offensive inconsistency, which can kill someone who is first and foremost a playmaker, as many of his passes to open teammates ended up in mediocre chances, whiffed pucks, or good saves by BU's goalie.
As the team continues to gel and work out the obvious kinks in their game, his point totals should go up. The NCAA is an underrated league, it's definitely a grinder's league and it's hard for many Freshmen to adjust. As he spends more time in the league and keeps working as hard as he can he'll do fine. I'm expecting big things out of him when the season resumes next semester; Maine has a terrible record but they haven't been getting blown out a whole lot, so the team should improve, and with that Shore's playmaking skills will show up a lot more on the box scores.
There's no need to panic with him, he's obviously got the tools; I think it's just a matter of getting mentally and physically ready from game to game and not getting frustrated. He doesn't chirp a lot or try to fight guys, so he's not an easily distractible player which will only help him going forward. All in all it was a good first look at him and it wasn't too surprising to see some of the pains he's going through, it's natural for any Freshman and any rookie in a new league.