The basic mechanics of hockey are not a difficult thing to analyze in individual players. It doesn’t take the keenest of observation to get a rough idea of how good someone is at skating, at shooting, and at puck handling.
Hockey sense, in contrast, is usually a little trickier to spot. But for some players, such as Dallas Stars rookie Devin Shore, their hockey sense jumps out so clearly that it’s hard to not stop and take notice.
The 22 year-old Shore has just eight NHL games under his belt (and only 45 more in the AHL), yet looks like a player that’s been around the league for much longer. He’s poised and alert out on the ice, regularly getting himself into the right positions. This applies to both ends of the ice, as he controls the puck well in the offensive zone while also coming back hard to disrupt opposing teams in the defensive zone.
Always been impressed with how Devin Shore protects the puck.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) October 23, 2016
Devin Shore continues to impress with his composure with the puck and is nose for attacking the net. Created a nice scoring chance just now.— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) October 23, 2016
The native of Ajax, Ontario has four points in five games so far, which is tied with Jamie Benn for second on the team, behind just Tyler Seguin’s five. He’s averaging 15:12 of ice time per contest, including 3:04 with the man advantage.
Additionally, Shore has been on the ice for some of his team’s biggest moments so far into the season. He was out there for Jason Spezza’s game-tying goal against the Los Angeles Kings on October 20th, with just over two minutes left in the third period. Similarly, he was called upon by head coach Lindy Ruff as one of the three forwards for a defensive zone faceoff in the dying seconds of October 18th’s win over the Nashville Predators while the Stars were defending a one-goal lead.
Now, Shore certainly would not be getting these sorts of chances in these sorts of moments if it weren’t for the tidal wave of injuries washing through Dallas’ forward corps, with Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Eaves all missing time. However, it nevertheless speaks volumes that Shore is the one getting these opportunities to play a larger role, ahead of teammates with longer histories.
Making this all the more impressive is the fact that the young center has had fate trying to hold him back over the past year. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early last season, his first as a pro, and then suffered a lower-body injury a month ago in training camp. And yet, like he fends off other teams’ defensemen, Shore likewise fended off fate, staying dedicated and diligent in his recoveries. He is now reaping the rewards for all of his hard work.
"You say, 'Why me, what the heck did I do?' But that quickly fades away, and the same way you work hard on the ice or in the gym, you work hard in the treatment room,” Shore recently said to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. “You do whatever the training staff tells you, and you get there early every day, and you do what you have to do."
Like all rookies, there are still things that Shore needs to work on in his game (he’s currently at an ugly 38.0 Corsi for percentage, although that’s likely influenced by him starting a disproportionate number of his shifts in the defensive zone), but the early returns have been very promising. If he looks this good after just eight NHL games then it stands to reason that there is an even brighter future still to come.