On Friday, April 1, the Flames returned Brett Kulak, up on emergency recall, to the Stockton Heat. Kulak last played on March 30, against the Anaheim Ducks, before Jyrki Jokipakka returned to the lineup.
Now, Emile Poirier has been returned to the AHL. Poirier, also previously up on emergency recall, also last played on March 30, before Johnny Gaudreau returned to the lineup.
This leaves Hunter Shinkaruk, who was recalled at the same time as them, still up in the NHL. Michael Frolik is the Flames’ lone injured player, but we don’t know just what the extent of his injury is. All we knew was that he wouldn’t play on the rest of the road trip, and now, the road trip is over.
Shinkaruk is still up, though. And he’s earned it.
In the two games Kulak played for the Flames this spring, he had three shots on net. Against the Coyotes, he played 14:55; in the blowout against the Ducks, 17:54. Poirier, meanwhile, played 14:03 against the Coyotes and 13:44 against the Ducks. Like Kulak, he was held off the scoresheet, but had three shots on net.
Shinkaruk, meanwhile, has worked his way up in terms of minutes. Against the Coyotes, he played 14:56, pretty similar to Poirier. And while he had no shots on net, he did pick up his first career point: an assist.
Then his ice time started to go up. Against the Ducks, he played 17:02 (three shots, and scored his first NHL goal). Against the Kings, he played 17:50 (just one shot). And against the Oilers, he dipped as he was taken off of the top line with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, playing just 15:12 as he was moved to Sam Bennett’s line (who is still a pretty good centre to have).
Shinkaruk’s playing status with the Flames relies on Frolik staying out of the lineup, or another forward getting injured should Frolik return. There are only three games left in the season, though, so depending on the severity of Frolik’s injury (or even just how sore he is), it’s possible Shinkaruk could close out the Flames’ season, but not a guarantee by any means.
In the four games he’s played so far, he’s shown glimmers of hope for the Flames’ future on the wing. With 49 points through 59 AHL games this season, Shinkaruk is the Flames’ leading AHL scorer – though most of those points came with the Utica Comets, and it should be noted Kenny Agostino has 48 points through 58 AHL games played himself. (Derek Grant still takes the crown for being a 1.25 point-per-game player in the AHL, though he has just one assist with the Flames so far; it’s far more likely Grant is a bottom six player while Shinkaruk and maybe even Agostino could be higher up in an NHL lineup should they meet their potentials.)
Shinkaruk is still a very green player, and he’s hardly a lock to be on the NHL team next season in any capacity. (Remember Poirier had a great rookie professional season, but this season hasn’t quite matched expectations. Patience is essential.) But over the course of this season, and through the couple of games he’s played with the Flames, he may be one of the better emergency recalls we’ve seen up with the team to close out this season.
The Flames still need help on the wing, but hopefully, they need a little less help than we thought now.