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Nick Shore is leading the NHL in Corsi% and it's pretty strange

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Where did this come from??

This photographer managed to capture a rare moment when Nick Shore did not yet have the puck
This photographer managed to capture a rare moment when Nick Shore did not yet have the puck
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Shore was on the ice for 20 shots attempts for and 2 shots attempts against at even strength against the Flyers tonight. Check the Corsi leaderboards after the game, and this is what you see:

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Huh?

Nick Shore didn't make an awful first impression last year, but he was pretty mediocre in the possession department, posting a -3.69% Corsi relative despite receiving slightly favorable zone starts.

But this year? This year Nick Shore has been on a Corsi tear. In over 200 minutes of 5v5 TOI, the Kings have gotten nearly two-thirds of the shot attempts when he is on the ice! LA shot attempt generation has been quite good when he's on the ice (60.24 CF/60), but the real magic has been in his league-leading shot suppression (34.5 CA/60, when the league average is about 53.5). Playing on a great possession team like the Kings is part of this, obviously, but what we really want is an explanation of why Shore is suddenly doing so much better than even his LA teammates. How'd he pull that off?

It's not because of his linemates. Shore has actually had a fairly tough go of it in that regard. He's spent about three-quarters of his ice time with Trevor Lewis, and his next two most common linemates are Tanner Pearson and Dustin Brown. Those are decent players, but hardly the best LA has to offer. And because he is a center Shore has spent pretty much zero even strength minutes alongside Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, or (because he's stapled to Carter's hip) Tyler Toffoli. Those are the three players most observers would have picked as LA's three best possession players following Justin Williams's departure, so Shore's success without them is highly impressive.

The answer is can't be found in Shore's deployment, either. Shore's zone starts have actually been slightly more defensive than team average (-1.33% ZS relative). Quality of competition is pretty much never very significant for Corsi%, but just to make sure, Shore's Corsi QoC and Corsi Rel QoC are both right around LA's team average. His minutes aren't any softer than what the average King receives.

Small sample size is of course a factor only 18 games into the season. Shore has been on the ice for 357 Corsi events in total, and maybe as that number increases his Corsi% will regress towards the NHL mean. Still, 357 is a big enough number that this is a trend worthy of further observation.

Interestingly, the Kings have actually been outscored by six goals with Shore on the ice at evens (+3/-9), because Shore's 89.3 PDO is second-worst among all NHLers. (This is an example of how PDO is a vastly stronger force than Corsi over a quarter-season sample size.) He's been the recipient of a 2.54% on-ice shooting percentage and a .867 on-ice save percentage, which, ouch.

The good news is that on-ice save percentage is an excellent bet to regress towards the mean soon. The shooting percentage probably will too, but maybe not all the way. Shore's main linemate is Trevor Lewis, after all, and there is abundant evidence (over 3,000 minutes of it) that Trevor Lewis obliterates his line's on-ice shooting percentage. Dustin Brown is probably better in this department but he has posted below-average on-ice shooting percentages over the past couple years, too. With only 52 NHL games played the jury is still out on how Nick Shore will fare long-term in this highly volatile statistic.

So I'm very much in favor of keeping the Brown-Shore-Lewis line together and seeing what happens. If they can sustain something like these possession results, they will be an excellent defensive asset for LA when their puck luck normalizes. In fact, they'd be the best defensive trio in the league. It's only 18 games, and that fact can't be repeated too often, but keep an eye on this.

(Note: it should go without saying that just because Nick Shore has the best Corsi% in the league it does not follow that he has been the best possession player in the league. Obviously, he benefits on playing for a good team like the LA Kings, and he would not be leading the league in Corsi if he played for, say, the Colorado Avalanche. Still, leading the best possession team in the league in Corsi% indicates he is a very good possession player, or at least has been one through 18 games.)