After taking a brief hiatus to nurse his ailing wrist, Panthers’ rookie forward Drew Shore is reportedly set to return to the lineup on Saturday night – thus beginning the 3rd and final chapter of his roller coaster rookie season.
In a season in which much of the focus was placed on the arrival of Panthers’ top-prospect Jonathan Huberdeau, fellow NHL neophyte Drew Shore quietly put together his own impressive rookie resume. In 34 games this season, Shore has accumulated 11 points (2G 9A) while seeing time on both the power play and penalty killing units.
Although his point total may seem low at first, it is important to note that Shore did most of his statistical damage in a single month . During the month of February, Shore led all NHL rookies in scoring with 10 points (2G 8A) and seemed as if he was destined to be the next great Florida Panther alongside Jonathan Huberdeau. However, from the beginning of March until now, Shore’s production has dipped – scoring only 1 point – as he continues to fight through the first rough patch of his young career.
One reason for Shore’s recent struggles may have to deal with him adjusting to the rigors of his first marathon hockey season. This season, Shore has already competed in 75 hockey games while splitting time between the Panthers and the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League – by far the most in his young career. Luckily for Panthers’ fans, Shore seems optimistic and is most certainly poised to breakout of his current slump. Drew was kind enough to open up about his season after the Panthers defeated the Sabres on March 28th:
“I kind of have a second wind,” Shore said. “I think I kind of went through a little tough period early on in the month (March). Anytime you are playing in the NHL it’s a good opportunity – I have felt pretty good the last couple games.”
With only one month remaining in his rookie year, Shore will be looking to not only improve this season, but also put himself in a position to succeed next year. A gifted offensive talent, Shore will spend much of the final month of the season trying to rediscover his scoring touch.
“I just want to offensively get going, it’s been pretty frustrating offensively,” Shore said of his recent struggles. “I started off the year in the American League really good offensively and (then) came here and haven’t really hit full stride yet. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on and hopefully it’s something I can focus on over the last month.”
One of Shore’s stand out qualities this season has been his ability to consistently put the puck on net. In fact, Shore’s 82 shots this season are good enough for 5th on the entire Panthers’ roster. While many rookies start their careers timid and unwilling to take shots, Shore has shown great confidence in his offensive abilities since day one. Although he hasn’t been able to light the lamp often, don’t expect Shore to hold back offensively during the final month.
“I mean I’ve had a lot of good opportunities that I haven’t been burying,” Shore said when asked about his willingness to shoot the puck. “I am going to keep shooting the puck because if you keep shooting the puck eventually you are going to get a couple to start going in …. Once a couple start going in I’ll get on a little roll, but it hasn’t happened yet … all I have to do is keep working hard and shoot the puck.”
Luckily for the Panthers, Shore’s potential return to the ice comes at a very critical point in the season. Amazingly, a victory Saturday over the Washington Capitals would put the Panthers just 6 points out of the Southeast Division lead with 10 games remaining. With the Panthers back from the dead and now suddenly sniffing the playoffs, Shore’s return to form could be just the spark the team needs to continue their current winning streak.
Currently in the midst of a 3-game winning streak and with both Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore reportedly set to take the ice this Saturday, one thing is for sure – April is setting up to be an exciting month for hockey in South Florida.
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