Hockey has always been a family game, from the Howes to the Sutters to the Staals. Now a clan from Colorado is staking its claim. The Shore boys – Drew (19), Nick (17), Quentin (16) and Baker (11) are quickly establishing a pedigree for excellence in the Rocky Mountain State.
And while hockey has taken the boys all over America in the past few years, the family did get a chance to bond together again in Ontario’s Muskoka region this summer – the province’s premier cottage country.
“We haven’t done it in a while,” Nick said. “It was pretty chaotic.”
Not that growing up in a household of four boys was ever quiet, but there were also some fun benefits.
“It was definitely enough for my parents,” Drew laughed. “There was always something to do, always someone to shoot pucks with.”
Drew, entering his sophomore season with the University of Denver Pioneers, is a second round draft pick of the Florida Panthers (44th overall in 2009) and will be joined on the Pios this year by brother Nick. And while Drew let Nick choose his own path, he’s certainly happy to have his brother joining the team.
“Secretly I wanted him at Denver,” Drew said. “Not just because he’s a great player, but he’s one of my best friends.”
The two both went through the U.S. national team development program, though they played on different squads. Nonetheless, the Shore boys did team up as roommates one year.
“It made the transition easier,” Nick said.
And while the pair enjoyed each other’s company, brothers will be brothers.
“I tried to control the TV remote, but he tried to control it, too,” Drew said. “And we would play ping-pong to see who got to drive the next day.”
Nick and Drew stayed with billets in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the NTDP is headquartered, and, ironically, brother Quentin will also bunk with that family this year when he joins the program.
But this being Nick’s draft year, the focus will shift to the second eldest. Finishing with a solid 20 points in 26 games against United States League competition last year, Nick also boasted a nice plus-14 rating. Much like Drew, he has decent size (six-foot, 190 pounds) and offensive capabilities. How does he excel on the ice?
“I’d say my shot and my hockey sense,” Nick noted. “I’ve always tried to work on my skating and I think it’s improving a lot, too.”
At the NHL’s research and development camp this August, Nick was put on essentially the top line for his squad, playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. Though he played on the wing there, he is most comfortable as a center.
“It was pretty cool to try out the new rules,” Nick said.
But the big stage is still waiting. As a late birthday, Nick will get to impress NHL scouts against NCAA competition, some of which will be several years older than him. And fortunately, he won’t have to do everything himself. Other incoming freshmen include Nick’s future dorm roommate and Pittsburgh first-rounder Beau Bennett (20th overall, 2010), world juniors gold medalist Jason Zucker (Minnesota, 59th overall, ’10) and goaltender Sam Brittain (Florida, 92nd overall, ’10). He’ll also have a motivated older brother, still stinging from an opening round upset last year at the hands of RIT at the Frozen Four.
“Last season didn’t end up the way we wanted,” Drew said, adding a silver lining: “I didn’t put up the offensive numbers I wanted to, but I benefited from the veterans who passed their experience on to me.”
As for advice for brother Nick, Drew is already on top of it.
“It’s his draft year and that can make you uptight and nervous,” Drew said. “He just needs to focus on what he can control.”
Meanwhile, Nick offers up a scouting report on the next Shore lined up for the spotlight, incoming NTDPer Quentin.
“He’s a tall center who’s good at both ends of the ice,” Nick said.
And in a couple years from now, we can ask Quentin what the hockey world can expect from Baker. It’s all in the family for the Shores.
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