LOS ANGELES — With forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, and Linden Vey all up with the big club after having been recalled by the Los Angeles Kings in recent days, filling roster spots left vacant by the likes of veteran forwards Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Matt Greene, and Jarret Stoll, who are all out of the lineup due to injury, there has been a powerful ripple effect throughout the lineup of the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Indeed, younger, less experienced players have been thrust into roles they probably didn’t imagine themselves being in this season, let alone before the holidays, and that includes center prospect Nick Shore, who was selected by the Kings in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The 21-year-old, 6-0, 195-pound native of Denver, Colorado began the season on the Monarchs’ third line. But now, he is their top center, at least for the time being.
“He’s been seeing more and more ice, and he doesn’t seem to mind being in that role where he kills penalties, and is on the first power play unit,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Now he’s gone from a third line center to a first line center, and he’s handled it quite well.”
“There’s lots of proving ground left to cover,” Morris added during an exclusive interview with Frozen Royalty on November 12. “Since Linden and Tyler have gone up, he’s had more ice time. But we’ll see how it goes over the course of a month or two. I’m sure that his confidence will grow.”
During the Kings’ rookie camp, rookie tournament, training camp and pre-season games, Shore turned a few heads, showing some skill, and solid two-way play.
“If I was to describe myself as a player, it would be as a two-way center, someone who likes to play in all three zones,” said Shore. “Going into any season, you try to put as much as you can into the off-season to prepare yourself. This is my first season here, so I didn’t really know what to expect [during rookie camp and training camp], but that’s what you’re setting a path for during the summer—to prepare yourself as best you can.”
“It was really a big help, just to be out there, playing in those [rookie tournament] games, and the one pre-season game,” added Shore. “That was a huge help. Camp went well, so that was a good start. Now, we’re just looking to get on a roll here in Manchester.”
Shore was drafted by the Kings out of the University of Denver, where he played three seasons. His best year was in 2011-12, when he scored 13 goals and added 28 assists for 41 points, with 16 penalty minutes in 43 games. Prior to his college hockey career, he spent the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons in Ann Arbor, Michigan with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. That led to him playing for Team USA in the 2010 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship.
Shore ended the tournament ranked seventh in overall scoring, helping Team USA win the Gold Medal.
“That was a great experience, spending two years in Ann Arbor,” he noted. “Then, for us to win it, with that group of guys, it was a great experience.”
“That two years helped me transition into college hockey,” he added. “It was a huge help. The daily routine—you’re on the ice a lot, you’re working out a lot, and the second year you’re there, you’re playing a little bit of a college schedule. When you do that, you definitely get some familiarity with, not just the teams, but the pace at which you’re going to be expected to [play at] the next year.”
Now in his first year in the professional ranks, Shore’s intelligence is apparent.
“He’s a very quiet individual,” said Morris. “We really didn’t know what to expect, because we’d never really seen him, other than what we saw in [the Kings training] camp, so he was quietly earning his ice. He seems to be an intelligent player. He makes smart decisions with the puck, and he’s learning to play with more urgency, and a higher compete level.”
“Defensively, he’s fairly sound,” added Morris. “He doesn’t make any huge, glaring mistakes. [Offensively], he’s very deliberate, but he does have the ability to make smart plays, and try to create when he’s distributing pucks to guys like Pearson and [fellow Kings forward prospect Andy] Andreoff. They’re capable of making some things happen together, they think at a high level, [and] all of them have good hands. Tanner has a big shot, Andy can be strong on the puck, and Nick is the distributor.”
But like most young prospects, strength, quickness and intensity are areas where Shore needs work.
“I think it’s just a matter of strength and quickness [for him],” Morris indicated. “His sense of urgency and his awareness of potential threats is improving as he practices more, and as we play other teams top lines. Now he’s getting a taste of what it’s like to compete against guys who are a step away from [the NHL].”
“[It’s] just ramping up his intensity,” Morris added. “Sometimes it’s hard to really know what his forte is. There’s no one thing that jumps right out at you. That can be a good thing, but it can also be something that makes you wonder where his ceiling is going to be.”
“If he can ramp up his intensity, and play at a quicker pace, he can be a real asset to the organization. If he stays at the same pace, then you’d worry that a guy like that might be a career minor leaguer. But he’s an intelligent player. You don’t have to tell him too many times. When you’re making corrections, he seems to soak it up, and do his utmost to make sure he does things right.”
Shore knows that he has a long road ahead of him before he can reach the NHL.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he emphasized. “That’s why, every day, you head to the rink with the attitude that you want to keep getting better. So you work on a lot of things, and hopefully, keep going up from there.”
After 15 games with the Monarchs this season, Shore, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Kings on April 13, 2013, has scored two goals and has contributed two assists for four points, with a +6 plus/minus rating, and twelve penalty minutes.
When asked to assess his season to this point, Shore indicated that he really hasn’t gotten out of the gate yet.
“It’s been a little bit of a slow start,” said Shore. “I’m still looking to get things going. It’s just getting into the groove of things, and getting used to things.”
Unlike prospects coming out of major junior hockey in Canada, where players live with a billet family, or their own family—they have their meals prepared for them, and their laundry is taken care of—college players, like Shore, are mostly on their own.
“[Playing in the AHL is] a little different, especially from college,” Shore noted. “The transition is different, because it’s a much different lifestyle. You don’t have to go to class, or anything like that.”
“You’re pretty much on your own in college, but you don’t have the free time that you have here,” Shore added. “You have practice in the morning, and you have quiet afternoons, [unlike] college, where you’d have class in the afternoon.”
For Shore, the most significant change has been the schedule.
“The biggest difference is the change in lifestyle, going from being a college kid to living a pro lifestyle, where you’re playing a lot more games, and you’re on the road a lot,” he said. “That’s been the biggest adjustment.”
Shore, who lives with defenseman Derek Forbort and right wing Scott Sabourin (both are Kings prospects as well), sounds like he is, at the very least, a decent cook—probably better than Sabourin (see Scott Sabourin Struggled “Big Time” After Great Training Camp With LA Kings).
“I cook most of my food,” said Shore. “It’s going well so far. I make a lot of chicken.”
Frozen Royalty’s Nick Shore Coverage
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