“I think he’s one of the best defensive centermen in the league already, and he’s only in his second year.” (Drew Doughty, to Jon Rosen on Fox Sports West, after last Tuesday’s win against Vancouver)
Is Nick Shore really one the league’s top defensive centers after just 58 NHL games? In a word, no.
Let’s begin with the obvious. Speaking of just Los Angeles Kings’ centermen, Shore doesn’t battle the strongest competition (that’s Jeff Carter), handle the toughest zone starts/faceoffs (that’s Anze Kopitar), or endure the most time on the penalty kill (again, Kopitar). So he isn’t even among the most trusted centers on his own team, much less the entire league.
This, of course, is no fault of Shore’s. Kopitar is a perennial Selke candidate; Carter is an underrated two-way force.
So is there any basis for Doughty’s claim? Actually, so far this season, yes.
Now it must be stressed that we’re talking about a very small sample size of data. Shore is nowhere near the body of work required to even begin to declare him “one of the best” at anything.
But early in 2015-16, Shore is up there among centermen in a number of key defensive 5-on-5 categories:
- Scoring Chances Against: When Shore is skating, the Kings aren’t allowing chances. His 17.2 scoring chances against per 60 minutes is tops among 158 qualified centers (200+ 5v5 minutes).
- Scoring Chances For %: In much the same way, if there’s a scoring chance when Shore is on the ice, chances are it’s an LA opportunity—the exact number is 62.2% of the time. This eye-opening figure is second only to Mikko Koivu’s.
- Corsi Against: Shore’s lead here is flat-out impressive. He sees only 35.3 shot attempts against per 60 minutes, which is more than a half-dozen less than the next qualified pivot, Nicklas Backstrom (42.4), who is closely followed by Jacob Josefson (42.7).
- Corsi For %: Likewise, if there’s a shot attempt when Shore is out there, it’s most likely a Los Angeles attempt—precisely 64.6% of the time. Again, Backstrom trails, but well behind at 59.6, then Mathieu Perreault at 58.9.
Anyway, it does matter that our sample size is just 24 games. It does matter that Shore plays for a defensive powerhouse. It does matter that he’s accumulating these stifling chance and shot suppression results in not the most challenging of minutes.
But all said, Doughty was right to point out in the same interview that Shore “doesn’t get even close to enough credit. He kind of just flies under the radar.”
Going into this season, there was a ton of talk that the Kings were much weaker down the middle because of the losses of Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards. Shore is well on his way to making up — nay, improving — on that departed depth.
Sheng Peng penned the above article. He will be offering readers his unique perspective, often rooted in analytics and #fancystats. For more on Peng, check out his bio here. Also, if you have any questions about the above stats, don’t hesitate to comment below or ask @Sheng_Peng about them on Twitter.
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