Sweet lord above, this is a beautiful goal. I’d like to have seen a bit more of that from Shore in Stockton last season.
Sometimes really good players don’t get to be NHLers. That’s one of the ways to explain the puzzle that is Drew Shore so far. It isn’t that he hasn’t had success at the AHL level – in fact he has been mildly productive at the NHL level – it’s just, sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Let’s see how he did this season with Stockton after the jump.
There was a fair bit of optimism surrounding Drew Shore when he was acquired, completely out of nowhere, from the Florida Panthers in January of 2015. In exchange, the Flames returned Corban Knight to the Cats, the team that had originally drafted him, where he scored seven points in 20 games last season.
It didn’t seem as if the Flames were particularly displeased with Knight when he was dealt, but there was general consensus that they were getting a far more NHL-ready player in Shore, who had already played 67 NHL games in Florida prior to coming to Calgary. Since his arrival, and due to some rather sticky waiver situations (Shore has since cleared waivers), Shore’s opportunities with the Flames have been brief.
Two seasons ago, Shore suited up for 11 games with the Flames and even got himself into a playoff game, while this past season he only saw two NHL games, spending the overwhelming majority of his time with the Stockton Heat. At 25 years old, Shore was counted on to be a major contributor for Stockton this season and the results were generally positive.
Despite scoring a career-high 38 points last season, he posted a points-per-game rate of 0.66, nearly identical to his 2013-14 AHL season with San Antonio at 0.64/ppg and below his 2014-15 pre-trade rate of 0.85. I suppose that is to say that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of growth in Shore’s game despite the respectable numbers.
Shore finished fourth on the Heat in scoring with 10 goals and 28 assists in 59 games, slightly below Freddie Hamilton, who happens to be one year younger than Shore. Throughout the year, Shore played up and down Stockton’s depth chart including stints in the top six when Bill Arnold was injured, and some fairly regular time with Mason Raymond when Raymond cleared waivers late in the season.
Towards the end of the season, after Derek Grant was sidelined with injury, the Heat’s top unit was the line of Agostino, Hamilton, and Hathaway. It seemed logical when Grant went down that Shore might get a larger opportunity to fill Grant’s minutes but the coaching staff stuck with the versatile Freddie Hamilton instead.
It doesn’t exactly bode well for Shore that Hamilton was rewarded with a call-up over him, as both players play very similar styles. Both Hamilton and Shore are natural centremen who can also play the wing and, coincidentally, both players are restricted free agents this summer (along with Arnold, who is also one year younger than Shore).
IMPACT ON TEAM
There’s little doubt that Shore has put up good numbers at the AHL level, and, in terms of counting numbers, this season was a slog for just about every Flames prospect not named Derek Grant or Kenny Agostino.
Let’s have a look at how Shore stacks up when placing him among the top offensive producers in Stockton this year. As in a few other evaluations I have done for Stockton players this season, I have also included the interesting but imperfect “Goals Created” metric, courtesy of Prospect-Stats’ AHL section (the way that this is calculated can be found here).
As demonstrated by these figures, Shore’s production is far more comparable to Emile Poirier than Derek Grant, and was outscored by both Hamilton and Hunter Shinkaruk in terms of primary points-per-game and goals created-per-game.
Clearly, charts like those are not a complete picture of Shore’s, or any player for that matter, season and should be viewed in that context. Although Shore’s inability to out-produce Hamilton and Grant certainly influenced the decision to call both players up instead of him. The Flames might very well choose to bring back Hamilton and Shore, though I am nearly certain that there won’t be an NHL spot for both of them.
Listed at 6’3, 205 lbs, Shore has good size, decent hands, and could find work in the Flames bottom six next season. Frankly, Grant, Shore, Hamilton, or Arnold could easily provide the on-ice equivalency of Matt Stajan and could do it at a fraction of the price. However, the organization doesn’t seem too eager to move Stajan, likely for reasons that have little to do with on-ice production.
If Stajan’s spot isn’t available, then Shore would have to fight for a bottom six wing spot, along with Josh Jooris, Brandon Bollig, Micheal Ferland, Lance Bouma, Kenny Agostino, Freddie Hamilton (if re-signed), Hunter Shinkaruk (depending on where he’s used), and maybe Emile Poirier, That list of names likely won’t strike fear into many other NHL teams, so it is absolutely possible that Shore can play his way onto the roster. The only question is: will there be a spot to play for?
If he is indeed retained by the Flames, this next season will likely define his place in the pro hockey ecosystem. Finding regular AHL spots after the age of 26 becomes harder and harder, with many teams reserving coveted spots for younger players. Shore has an impressive AHL résumé and could likely fit onto an NHL roster: it is just a matter of seizing, and getting, an opportunity.