DALLAS — The NHL’s best rookie may play in Toronto, but one of the best rookie stories had to leave the greater Toronto area to pursue his hockey career.
Devin Shore isn’t likely to win the Calder Memorial Trophy this year. Heck, after six games most of the hockey world has already handed it to the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews — who opened his NHL season as the first player to score four goals in their NHL debut.
But Shore is the rookie that’s going to be a key part of a contender. The Dallas Stars have had their ups and downs through six games, many caused by injuries, but Shore has helped keep a team afloat that at full strength could compete for a Stanley Cup next spring.
The 22-year-old had a pair of assists on Tuesday as Dallas bounced back with a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets. The performance gave Shore six points (one goal, five assists) in six games and his second assist helped Patrick Eaves pick up his 100th career NHL goal.
“His poise with the puck is awesome,” Eaves said. “He’s a guy that’s really easy to play with because of that. He can either hang out to it or beat a guy and find the open man. I was just fortunate to be on the open end.”
As Eaves pointed out, Shore’s ability to protect the puck is his best asset — a must in today’s puck possession world. Shore can shield the puck with his body and create plays below the circles, while his ability to change speed with the puck has created chances for his linemates.
And through six games Shore has had a lot of linemates.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff has always been known for shuffling lines and it’s been amplified with Dallas’ rash of injuries. The Stars have used 16 forwards and 15 different line combinations through six games, and that doesn’t include in-game changes.
With all the line-mixing, Shore has jumped from center to wing and back again. He’s taken key faceoffs, killed penalties, and been given a chance to play on the power play with the Stars top-six forwards.
Shore’s ability to overcome injury makes his performance even more impressive. Last season Shore was one on the AHL’s best player before he was injured and had season-ending shoulder surgery. He then came into training camp and suffered a lower-body injury on the second day of camp, but ultimately returned for the final preseason game and solidified his spot on the team.
“That was tough, and it was such a stupid injury,” Shore said. “One of those things where it’s happening (in practice) and nothing you can really do about it. You just have to patient and that’s how I really had to think about. But it feels good to be back.”
Since turning pro after his junior season at Maine, Shore has played 32 combined games the past two seasons between the NHL and AHL. During that time he has 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) and he’s been part of 19 victories.
“He’s a good player,” Ruff said. “He makes it easier for us. He can play with anyone in any situation. That’s big for us when we are going through injuries like this.”