A closer look at Hunter Shinkaruk

The Flames acquired local boy Hunter Shinkaruk yesterday, a player who was within their grasp during the 2013 entry draft. The club went with Sean Monahan (sixth) and Emile Poirier (22nd) with their first two picks instead, leaving Shinkaruk to fall to the hated Canucks at 24th overall. 

The decision set up the potential for an ongoing debate between Poirier and Shinkaruk, but that dichotomy is now moot with Calgary acquiring the 21-year-old winger for Markus Granlund. So how is it Shinkaruk came home to the Flames by such a circuitous route?

Draft Season

Hunter Shinkaruk was considered a top five draft talent at the onset of his WHL 2012-13 season. The small, shifty winger was coming off an incredible 47-goal, 91-point season for the Medicine Hat Tigers as a 16-17 year old and was roundly viewed one of the best offensive wingers available in the upcoming draft. 

Unfortunately, his 18-year-old season wasn’t as impressive. Shinkaruk ran in place with 37-goals and 86-points, typically a bad sign for kids in junior. He still had some of the best offensive numbers amongst draft eligible forwards that year, but his stock had fallen enough by the end of season to push him out of the top five conversation.

Nevertheless, Shinkaruk was often mentioned in the 10-15 territory in most mock drafts. In fact, our consensus ranking that year put Shinkaruk at 12th overall, one ahead of Bo Horvat whom the Canucks took inside the top 10 (Poirier was 57th).

In reality, Shinkaruk’s stock had fallen much further than that in the eyes of NHL teams and scouts. As the draft neared, rumours of an entitled attitude surrounded the young man and seemed to explain why he wasn’t able to build on his incredible 17-year old season. 

The combination of a step back in his output and whispers of a bad attitude was enough to drop Shinkaruk outside of the teens altogether. It almost seemed he would fall out of the first round completely until the Canucks stepped up and took him at 24th overall. 


The doubts that plagued Shinkaruk at the draft seemed to be justified the next season. He suffered a hip injury early in the 2013-14 season, limiting him to just 16 points in 18 games that year. Though that can hardly be considered damning, the lacklustre output painted the picture of a kid who had peaked early and was struggling to live up to previously high expectations.

With 2013-14 being a write-off, Shinkaruk turned pro the next year. His performance was good but not great as an AHL rookie, scoring 16 goals and 31 points in 74 games for the Utica Comets. Not bad results for a 19-year-old turning 20 in a men’s league, but not eye-popping either. As a result, he continued to look more like a falling star than a future NHLer.

Things turned around for the 21-year-old this year, however. Shinkaruk was noticeably good in the Canucks pre-season and was one of the last cuts to head to the AHL. After finishing sixth on the Comets in scoring as a rookie, Shinkaruk managed to pace the club this year with 39 points in 45 games, six more than second placed Brendan Gaunce. He was also the team’s best goal scorer this year, totalling 21 markers to Gaunce’s 15 (only one other Comet has more than 10 goals).

The big sophomore push seems to have renewed some faith in the player’s NHL future. Unfortunately for Shinkaruk, his path to the show seemed to be blocked by former Flame pick Sven Baertschi, who plays the same position and can be considered a similar player (smallish, skill scorers). 

Moving Forward

Bringing us to the recent trade. The Flames are woefully short on scoring wingers in the system, particularly with Emile Poirier’s (ironic) step back this year. With Markus Granlund failing to take a meaningful step forward in the NHL this season, it set the Flames up for a prospect-for-prospect swap with the Canucks. Especially with avowed Granlund fan Jon Weisbrod in the Canuck’s front office.

Calgary represents a very real opportunity for Shinkaruk. When Jiri Hudler is dealt at the trade deadline next week, the list of effective scoring wingers in the Flames org begins and ends with Johnny Gaudreau.  

Of course, Shinkaruk is anything but a sure thing. His excellent AHL season and junior career aside, we have no idea if the kid will be able to do anything at the NHL level. Markus Granlund was a top notch AHLer too, but he never really figured it out at the next level.

At worst, this trade is a push for the Flames – they’ve exchanged one fringe NHLer for another. Given Shinkaruk’s age (he’s a year and half younger) and what we know about Granlund (he’s a tweener), there’s a least some chance the former Canuck will become something more. 

  • CutterMcAwesome

    Did Poirer have off season surgery this year? I feel like it was a shoulder.

    It looks like players in development who suffer an season ending injury or off season surgery tend to take a full season to get back into stride.

  • everton fc

    Shunkaruk would be interesting on the left side of a line centred by Backlund, with Ferland on the RW. Or see what he can do w/Bennett and Frolik. In fact, the second option is a very real possibility if Hunter puts up points quickly in Stockton.

    Unrelated (sort of) I’d also like to see Jooris on the RW w/Gaudreau and Monahan. Why not, it’s rebuild mode!

    • Kat

      Why would you want to break up Backlund/Frolik, whose games are made for each other and who are BFFS? Why not just slot Hunter in on the LW and have Shinkaruk – Backlund – Frolik ?

      I mean, the lack of a pure variation-of-Michael line may deter some, but it has promise.

      • Baalzamon

        Because Frolik also works well with Bennett, and the team is short on scoring line worthy wingers. If Backlund isn’t on a scoring line, and you don’t want to separate him and Frolik, that leaves you with exactly who to play with Bennett?

        • Pre-trade deadline, slot Ferland and Jooris on either side of Bennett. Colborne can stay with Backlund, as Backlund apparently has some weird ability to make that guy “tolerable”.

          Then later we can replace the Colborne local “talent” with some actual local talent.

      • everton fc

        I was thinking Shinkaruk on the left side of Backlund and Frolik. Typo. Ferland-on-the-brain.

        Ferland would be a good linemate to protect Hunter, though. Both can skate, have good hands, and aren’t afraid to go into the corners and “dirty places” to create opportunities. May be some potential there, as well.

  • MonsterPod

    Nothing to get too excited about. After watching the Flames get absolutely manhandled twice in a week by the Ducks, this team needs to get bigger, not acquire Phil Kessel light. But at least we didn’t give up any size/grit to get him.

    • piscera.infada

      That argument is overplayed. Do the Flames need to get bigger? Probably. Were they manhandled by the Ducks because the Ducks are bigger? No. They were manhandled by the Ducks, because the Ducks are infinitely better than the Flames in every single regard.

    • SmellOfVictory

      One of the concerns about Shinkaruk was whether his body would hold up in the big leagues given his hard forechecking play style. He’s not Phil Kessel light.

      • McRib

        The most hilarious thing about the “we need to get bigger argument” now is Engelland & Bollig are why we got absolutely destroyed last game possessionaly.

        • MonsterPod

          Nobody’s arguing that the Flames need any more low minute big guys.

          Where is Anaheim’s size? On their top line, and their second line.

          San Jose? Top line, second line, Brent Burns is a large D.

          LA? Top line. Second line? Jeff Carter, etc.

          Size where it matters. And oh yeah, those are the top 3 teams in the division.

          Yes, historical exceptions are Chicago and Detroit. Play that card if you want.

          • McRib

            Setting the dangerous singular precedent of “we need to get bigger” is exactly why Bollig and Engelland are on this team to begin with, whether you want to discredit what I said by calling them low minute guys or not (Engelland played 20.33 minutes last night against LA, which is where you really get into trouble with only playing unskilled “big players” because of size). Engelland should be a low minute guy (he should really be a no minute guy), but he is not hence why we are in the bottom 5 teams in the league.

            Having size is good, but it is also a very slippery slope if you are only singularly looking for it. A majority of first round busts the last decade or so are because of size, teams who have this sole view often overlook glaring weaknesses in place of size and pay for it later. Size is great if you can find it, but like you stated you don’t need size to win (A Stanley Cup of Chicago vs Tampa Bay last year is a great example) and my major problem is the suggestion of only looking for it with the phrase “we need to get bigger”.

            If we compared the biggest five teams in the league this season to start the year Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Arizona, Colorado, Buffalo. Los Angeles is the only team that is even a decent playoff team. The reason Anze Kopitar is great is not because he is 6’3″, it’s because he is a great hockey player. I’m down for drafting the next elite big guy ( i.e. a future Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf etc), but Matt Pelech, Greg Nemisz, Kris Chucko were all “big” as well. Honestly no word of a lie do you know why Jamie Benn was a 4th Rounder his draft year?!?!? Most scouts thought he was soft (people were calling him “Gentle Benn”). People think it was because he was playing in the BCHL, but he was on absolutely everyones radar, Dallas looks like a genius now but really just took him where he was projected to go. Like I said toughness is way overvalued in our league and funnily enough is why Benn fell in the draft, one of the most elite big guys in the league lol. Lets just keep an open mind about things, instead of just acquiring “tough guys”. The reason why we can’t beat LA or Anaheim is because plain and simple we just aren’t as good as them, nothing to do with size.

  • Backburner

    I found Treliving’s comments on his scouting analysis of Shinkaruk when he was with the Coyotes that year very interesting.. he said he felt that scouts were questioning whether his skill set would translate to the next level, which is possibly why he fell out of the top 20.

    I am hopeful though, he’s having a great year in the AHL, and as I said before, maybe it gives the Flames a little Flexibility if they want to trade another prospect in the system.

  • lionlager

    That last paragraph though, I’ve never seen such a glass-half-empty way to say the a team won a trade. Optimism! And the schafenfreude from Canucks fans in this deal is quite wonderful.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I think it’s a realistic way of looking at it. GMs do make mistakes, but they don’t trade a high end prospect for an older mid-range prospect, no matter how much they like that mid-range prospect. Which means Vancouver likely sees Shinkaruk as a mid-range prospect as well (it seems pretty unlikely that someone would view Granlund as a high end one).

  • beloch

    Wikipedia claims that Shinkaruk’s hip was injured before he was drafted, and their source is an article from theprovince that’s since been taken down. However, it’s still on archive.org.

    Relevant portion:

    He had needed to repair that hip for years, but put it off, and managed to keep it on the “down low,” fearing it would have negatively impacted where he was drafted. And it would have.

    But the inevitable reality finally smacked him across the face after an October hit tore up his hip badly enough he had trouble working out, even getting around off the ice.

    “I couldn’t even run,” Shinkaruk said. “Before games, I’d just sit in the stall and wait. Then, go play.

    “I couldn’t do anything.”

    This is a bit similar to Sam Bennett, except nobody caught it in a timely fashion. A gradually worsening hip injury would certainly explain why he stalled in 12/13 and also, after aggravating it early in his 13/14 season, he regressed significantly, although that season is also a small sample of just 18 games. I don’t know how long it takes to reach one-hundred percent after that type of surgery, but it’s plausible that he was still recovering when he started his first season in the AHL.

    So, the Canucks fumbled the ball with Shinkaruk. If their medical staff had caught this earlier he might not have stalled for so long. It may have been hard to spot before he aggravated it in 2013, but it seems like a big part of the job is getting these hyper-competitive kids to admit when they have an injury.

    What does this mean? Unlike Baertschi, who stalled for no good reason, Shinkaruk was fighting an injury that should have been caught earlier. If he can make up for lost time there is yet hope that he’ll live up to the earliest rankings that had him in the top five of his draft class. Benning & Co. have made it clear they don’t think he’s got what it takes to translate his scoring ways into the NHL. Here’s hoping that it’s the Flames’ scouts who turn out to be right about this kid!

    • Jake the Snail

      I don’t believe everything that is written on Wikipedia because anybody could edit and add. May be it was taken down because it wasn’t the facts. However, this seems to have some credence.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Wasn’t Shinkaruk born with a silver spoon in his yap?

    There was one Calgary-born and raised kid who during the interviews with teams leading up to the draft answered a question about being sent to the minors by saying that he would rather retire than report as Daddy had already provided him with more money than he could ever spend. Seems that was the wrong answer because the kid got tagged and his draft stock fell. Can’t recall if it was Hunter or not as his stock also fell.

  • elvis15

    As a Canucks fan who’s watched Shinkaruk a fair bit (not so much this year) he’s a skilled player who’s been finding how to battle more and get into dirty areas while being responsible. His skill is high level though, fast hands and excellent stickhandling, with more of a shooter approach than a playmaker (a little opposite of Baertschi in that regard). He’s very quick, even if his top speed isn’t elite. He is still smaller and needs to find the sweet spot between protecting himself and fighting for pucks though, and if he figures that out and has reasonable linemates, he should find some level of NHL success.

    He’ll likely work best in a top 6 role, but could do top 9 minutes with an offensive slant. That’s what will get him to stick in the NHL, his offence and skill, more than him finding a home as a responsible player who pots the odd goal.

  • Jake the Snail

    I like this trade!

    It is a pure hockey trade and one player for another player. Nothing about this deal is about salary cap issues.

    No one at this point in time really knows what the future brings for either player. They could both excel in the NHL, or become nothing to write home about or one excels and the other flops….

    One thing is certain they will be tied to each because of this one for one trade.

    For the above reasons everyone is talking about the trade! From Canuck’s fans point of view – Nucks management made a terrible mistake – trading Shinkaruk based on one NHL game of 9 minutes duration. Of course, Flames fan say they are excited getting Shinkaruk because Granlund appeared to be spinning his wheels in the NHL anyhow.

    Should be an interesting time following these 2 players develop or not!

  • KiLLKiND

    WW it looks like you have completely lost the title of FN troll to BlueMoonNigel as you at least sometimes would have a rational thought. BMN congrats on achieving this by never posting anything reasonable or logical, but I think your ramblings are better suited to OilersNation. Nobody there knows anything about hockey either, so you would fit right in!