Somehow, the Calgary Flames traded Markus Granlund for Hunter Shinkaruk. They traded an older kid who looked to have about reached his potential for a younger prospect with a higher ceiling. And that was it; it was just a one-for-one swap.
That was back in February. It’s September. I still don’t get it.
The hometown forward is a Flame now, though. He’s only played eight NHL games so far, but we’re pretty hopeful for him.
A brief history
Shinkaruk is 21 years old. He’s one day younger than Sean Monahan, in fact, so the sooner they’re on the same team full time, the sooner they can have joint birthday parties or whatever.
He’s also listed as 5’11, 181 lbs., so he is a bit on the smaller side – not that that’s stopped certain players before. And considering how, in 2015-16, he was the Utica Comets’ leading scorer when he was traded – and actually finished the season as their second-highest scorer, with the only guy above him being three years older – he clearly has what it takes to play professionally.
Read more: A closer look at Hunter Shinkaruk
And we’re thinking that professional level will be in the NHL sooner rather than later. He can score and he’ll battle for the puck; now, we just need to see him take it to the next level on a consistent basis. And this year very well could be the year that happens. Maybe not at the very start – but also, maybe yes?
What does Shinkaruk need to do in order to become a regular NHLer? We asked Ryan Huska:
“Consistency, I think that’s one big thing. When the young guys come to the NHL, they have to find a way to bring the same thing everyday – to practice, to their games, to their off-ice workouts, to how they handle themselves away from the rink – and then you have to prove yourself daily, and that’s a big challenge for those young guys when they’re trying to break in on a full-time basis. And once they do have that opportunity, they have to take advantage of it.
“For Hunter, a lot of that comes down to consistency as well. He’s a guy that’s very driven. He loves to score goals. He enjoys being at the rink and he has fun around his teammates on the ice. For him, it’s taking advantage of his opportunities that are going to be in front of him. When he gets his chance to generate some offence, we’d like to see him to generate some offence, but again being a very competitive guy around the net and working well with his linemates are things that will help him.”
It sounds like Shinkaruk is really a “when, not if” kind of guy. And Future Considerations scout Scott Wheeler can see him becoming a legitimate top six option for the Flames:
“Shinkaruk has been through a lot in the last year and a half, but he has come out of it as a force in the AHL despite still being lean. When he has the puck on his stick he’s dangerous and everyone on the ice recognizes it. You’ll often see defenders try and close in on him too quickly and overcompensate in order to attempt to take away his space.
“If he can continue to improve his skating, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slowly work his way from being a depth scoring threat to being an actual option in an NHL top six. If Calgary is prepared to make room for him, he has the ability to be full-time this year.”
What comes next?
The Flames should have a spot or two open next season, and Shinkaruk is expected to challenge for one. Better yet for him, the Flames are lacking in legitimate top six wingers – and if he can reach his ceiling, he’ll help fill that hole.
So the expectation for Shinkaruk is to achieve that. Still with two years left on his entry deal, there’s plenty of time, but the sooner he can make it the better: both for his team, and, well, for him.
A position switch may even be in the cards for him. Shinkaruk is a left winger, which automatically puts him behind Johnny Gaudreau on the depth chart. However, the Flames did just draft Matthew Tkachuk back in June, another left winger. However however, Tkachuk has said he’s comfortable playing both sides of the ice; however however however, Shinkaruk did end his 2015-16 season by playing on the right side with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
So the Flames do have a few options as they look to fill out their top six forward ranks. But hopefully Shinkaruk will officially be a part of them by this time next year – or at least, force their hand in protecting him from the expansion draft. Because chances are, he’s got it in him.
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