Shore Steps Forward
Denver Junior Filling Brother's Big Shoes
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
Nick Shore followed his older brother Drew to the U.S. National Team Development Program. He followed Drew to the University of Denver. Now he is following Drew into the role of the Pioneers' top center and go-to scorer. With Drew's 53 points last year gone to the American Hockey League, this season gives Nick the chance to move into the spotlight.
So far, he has had no problem stepping into the lead role and becoming an elite scorer. Shore has found the scoresheet in five of six games for the 5-1-0 Pioneers, including multiple points in four and a hat trick in one — a 5-2 win over Air Force on Oct. 20. His 1.83 points per game are tops in the WCHA and fourth best in the country.
"I don't know if he would agree, based on that sibling rivalry, that he ever took a backseat to his brother," said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. "But there's no question that as Drew Shore was our leading scorer and one of our go-to guys last year, Nick Shore has stepped into those shoes in a big way this year. He's pretty much picked it up right where his brother stepped away. It's certainly nice to see that transition be made as seamlessly as it has been."
Shore's 41 points as a sophomore last season are certainly nothing to sneeze at, but part of his transition for this season is to become more of a goal-scorer. His older brother and Jason Zucker scored 22 apiece last year, but both turned pro after the season, leaving Shore's 13 as the most among returning players.
Shore has always been a pass-first player, and his excellent vision and decision-making have allowed him to be a very good playmaker. But he also has the tools to be a scorer. He has a quick shot, and at 6-feet, 195 pounds, he can win battles down low as well. His five goals in six games are evidence that he's putting those assets to better use this season.
"He's very strong and powerful and he can bull his way to the net when he wants to," Gwozdecky said. "So getting him to understand that that's something that needs to be a part of his playbook on a shift-to-shift basis is something we're trying to get him to become better at."
Shore isn't just a leader on offense. He's also one of the Pioneers' best defensive forwards and their top faceoff guy. Last season he took 988 faceoffs — 266 more than anyone else on the team — and finished with a team-best .537 winning percentage.
Shore said he's always working to get better on faceoffs, and Gwozdecky said he expects Shore to improve on last year's numbers.
As one of Denver's alternate captains, Shore is also a leader off the ice. He isn't very vocal, but according to his coach and teammates, Shore sets a great example both at the rink and away from it.
"He has a lot of respect in the locker room," Gwozdecky said. "He's one of the quieter guys in the room, but he's also a very intelligent guy and a very dedicated player. Similar to his older brother, he's one guy that you never have to worry about his academics, or his commitment to his training, or how he prepares for a game, or the nourishment, the eating habits, the sleeping habits, all those things. He approaches them in a very professional manner, and as a result, he's really a great example to the younger guys."
One of the guys Shore gets to set an example for is his younger brother Quentin, a freshman this season. Since Quentin joined the NTDP just as Nick left for Denver, Nick hadn't played with Quentin or been around him on a regular basis in several years. Nick said it's been great being around Quentin every day, and that he hopes he can help Quentin as much as Drew helped him.
Gwozdecky said he can already see the similarities between the Drew-Nick relationship and the Nick-Quentin relationship.
"They're all very competitive," Gwozdecky said. "They all get along extremely well, they're very close, but they're very competitive. Sometimes they can be their own worst critics. But certainly you can see that there's a loving bond there that not only keeps them very close, but really drives them."
Drew Shore ended last season as a top-10 scorer nationally and a Second Team All-CHN selection before turning pro. Nick Shore, a fourth-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, could be in contention for similar accolades if he continues to play this well.
That sort of stuff isn't even on his radar, though. He said he feels no pressure to live up to his brother, that he isn't concerned about where he ranks statistically, and that he hasn't really talked to the Kings about his pro future. Shore's teammates have noticed his ability to avoid outside distractions.
"I don't think he feels any pressure," said linemate Chris Knowlton. "He's such a quiet, humble guy. And if there was any pressure, his play has certainly shown that he's not feeling it. The team's off to a good start, and he's a big part of how much success we have. When he's going, that gets the whole team going."
Given Shore's work ethic and his determination to keep getting better, there's no reason to think he won't continue to go all season.