Florida forward Drew Shore is ready for big things as he heads into his sophomore season.
There are a lot of things to like about Florida’s Drew Shore as a hockey player. He’s skilled, gritty, tenacious, and versatile. The Panthers relied on him quite a bit as a rookie in 2013, and he will get an even bigger opportunity to contribute in 2013-14. Stephen Weiss left as a UFA (although he missed most of 2013 anyway), and the door is wide open for Shore to emerge as one of Florida’s go-to forwards in all situations.
Here are a few reasons why I like his fantasy upside both this season and beyond.
Reason #1 – Support
Florida boasts two very good defenisve centers in Shawn Matthias and Marcel Goc. These two do all of the hard work (or a lot of it) at even strength and on the penalty kill. And Florida’s young stars (Shore, Nick Bjugstad, Alexander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and so on) all stand to benefit. Shore will still play important minutes against good players, but he won’t have to expend all of his energy in a checking role – at least not right away.
Goc is one of the most underrated centers in hockey, and Matthias has quietly come into his own over the last two years. He is big, gritty, and physically dominant. These two guys may not have a lot of fantasy value on their own, but they increase the value of every other forward on the Panthers roster.
Reason #2 – Good luck
Shore scored only three goals as a rookie last season. He fired 96 shots on goal, which works out to a shooting percentage of 3.1. Suffice to say, that is unsustainable (in a good way). Shore finished 361st in NHL shooting percentage last year.
Even forwards with no hands will score more frequently than that, and Shore is quite a talented offensive player. Shore had 10 goals and 30 points with San Antonio during the lockout (41 games), and he had back-to-back 20+ goal seasons at the University of Denver before turning pro.
Reason #3 – Opportunity
Regardless of where Shore lines up (there is talk of moving him to wing to create space for Barkov… but that remains to be seen), he will definitely see an inrease on the 0:58 per game he saw on the power play last season.
At center, Shore could find himself centering Huberdeau. Or he could move over to the right wing to play with Barkov and Huberdeau (or Bjugstad). It would make sense for Florida to make a line with their young guys and to give them relatively “easy” minutes, while leaning on their veterans to go up against the top opposing players.
Shore may end up as more of a two-way guy in the long run, as he is better suited to play tough minutes than Florida’s other young forwards (and there are a lot of good ones). But he is also highly skilled and pegging him as a future third line center really sells his offensive ability short.