by Harvey Flalkov
Drew Shore knew he wasn't in Denver anymore as he watched in awe as fellow Panthers prospect 6-foot-6 left wing Justin Vaive pile-drive volleyballs against their peers in an intense game on Fort Lauderdale beach on July 4th.
Despite his marine-like surname, Shore is far more comfortable on ice than sand. It showed at the University of Denver where the co-captain led the Pioneers in scoring in the past two seasons, compiling 45 goals and 99 points.
After his junior season the Denver native, a second-round pick by Florida in the 2009 draft, was rewarded with an entry-level contract at $1.1 million per year, which kicks in when he makes the parent club.
"I never played beach volleyball in my life. It was awesome. Justin just slammed it right over the net in everyone's faces,'' laughed the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Shore. Sign up for sports text alerts.
Shore knows that the offensively-challenged Panthers will have 2-3 openings on the big club in September and although the front-runners are Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden, this former lacrosse standout isn't conceding anything.
"I think I'm ready for the next step, mentally and physically. I've got to get stronger and I'm putting an emphasis on that this summer,'' he said. "I'll come into camp, get my strength up and have a good shot to give my best effort."
Shore, 21, joined the San Antonio Rampage, Florida's AHL affiliate, in June for a sampling of professional hockey. In eight regular-season games, Shore had three points and was a plus-1. He added two goals in nine games in the playoffs.
"It's a lot different environment,'' Shore said. "I'm not playing against 21 year olds anymore, but playing with men. Scoring a couple of goals gave me confidence going into camp.''
Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon is a huge proponent of strong, physicals centers like Shore.
"He's a solid, two-way centerman who you could put out there in the last minute of periods,'' Tallon said Friday. "You could put him out there if you need a goal. He can kill penalties; he's a really smart player with good speed.
"He didn't look out of place in the AHL, so you never know. He'll come to camp and we'll go from there.''
After years of shoveling driveways and scraping windshields, Shore can get used to the South Florida lifestyle.
"We had a barbecue on the golf course,'' Shore said of a recent organizational bonding outing. "If I'm in San Antonio I'll give my best effort. That's not a bad place, but is definitely not the place you want to be.''