Perhaps one of the biggest surprises last season was the Tim Erixon trade continuing to pay dividends for the Flames in new and strange ways. Markus Granlund, the decent-ish 2011 second rounder who had proven himself too good for the AHL and too meh for a top six NHL role, was traded for 2013 first round pick Hunter Shinkaruk.
Let’s have a look at how his brief time in Calgary and slightly longer time in Stockton went this season!
I think most Flames fans were pretty clear on what the Flames were getting when they acquired Shinkaruk from Vancouver: a quick, shifty, goal-scorer with a sharp release and a nose for the net. However, what was surprising about Shinkaruk’s play when he was called up to the Flames was his ability to play nasty, something that likely kept him in the lineup repeatedly in the waning days of the season last year.
During Shinkaruk’s time in Calgary, he managed three points in seven games, including a pair of rather greasy goals that typified his hard-nosed play. Shinkaruk is generously listed online at 5’11 and 180 lbs, though he certainly is not as small as he was advertised after his draft.
In parts of three seasons in the AHL Shinkaruk has shown that he can score goals, totalling 43 goals in 136 games so far. Make no mistake, goal-scoring is a big part of Shinkaruk’s game and the Flames clearly hope that he can translate his success at the AHL and WHL level into the NHL.
However, if Shinkaruk is willing to continue heading to nasty areas to score goals, I’m not so sure it matters how big he is at all. Shinkaruk seems to possess an ability to put the puck in the net and that is something that the Flames don’t have a lot of in their system. Hopefully, if given a proper opportunity, Shinkaruk may be able to score using his shot as well and earn a larger role with the Flames next season.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Let’s take a look at how Shinkaruk did in his 17 game sample with Stockton, a place he probably wants to avoid next season:
As you can see, Shinkaruk was able to generate shots and points at roughly the same level as Stockton’s other top performers (other than Derek Grant, who was simply too darn good this year). Shinkaruk scored 12 points (six goals and six assists) in 17 games with the Heat, a rate of 0.71 ppg which is slightly lower than the rate he was scoring at with the Utica Comets prior to the trade (0.81 ppg).
Being able to acquire Shinkaruk was, in my estimation, a fabulous trade for the Flames as they likely had run out of options for Markus Granlund and in exchange they were able to help address the deficiency of skill that currently faces their system.
At times during his brief NHL call-up, Shinkaruk played some right wing, which included time on a line with Monahan and Gaudreau. This raised a great deal of eyebrows because even though he is a natural left winger, finding a right winger with speed and goal scoring prowess would be a dream for the Flames next season. Ask Chicago, who played Patrick Kane with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov throughout this season, if playing with two skilled, small wingers is a bad idea.
Even though the sample size was insanely small sample this season, Shinkaruk’s three points all involved Monahan or Gaudreau (assisting on a T.J. Brodie goal with Monahan, Monahan assisting on his first NHL goal, and Gaudreau assisting on his second).
By far, Shinkaruk played most often with Monahan (57 of his 101 total on-ice minutes) so it was obvious that Hartley wanted to see what he had with Shinkaruk in a top six role. Clearly this small sample isn’t enough time together to say unequivocally that the three are going to be successful, but at least the puck went in the net, I suppose.
Presently, the Flames are facing a rather sticky situation cap-wise next year and may be forced to ice a much more cost-effective roster. For that reason alone, Shinkaruk may receive a long, healthy chance to prove he can stick at the NHL level next season, especially due to his modest successes in a micro-sample this year.