When the Flames acquired Hunter Shinkaruk, then the Canucks’ top prospect, for the low, low price of inconsistent third liner Markus Granlund, it looked to be a godsend. It appeared that the Flames had acquired an NHL-ready, dynamic winger who could compliment the Flames’ stronger players and fill in holes on the roster. After a strong NHL run out on the top line, it appeared that there was nowhere to go but up for the 2013 first rounder.
It has not gone that way at all. After his second full season in the Flames organization, Shinkaruk seems more like an afterthought than a solution.
Shinkaruk came to the NHL with high expectations. His draft-1 year saw him put up 91 points, giving him potential lottery pick status. Although his draft year wasn’t much of an improvement, he still performed well enough to earn the 24th overall selection of the Vancouver Canucks (many Flames fans wanted him at 22 instead of Poirier). His final WHL year was cut very short by injury, finishing with only 16 points in 18 games played.
In his first year of pro, Shinkaruk was a quiet contributor to the Utica Comets, picking up 31 points in 74 games and finishing fifth in team scoring. His second year was pretty dominant. He finished tied for second in scoring for Utica with 39 points in 46 games. To put it into context, he finished nine points out of first with 18 fewer games. The guy he tied with (former Flame Carter Bancks) played 31 more games to hit that 39 point total.
Shinkaruk’s second pro year also saw him traded to the Flames for Granlund. In his brief stint with the Stockton Heat, he picked up 12 points in 17 games and earned a recall to Calgary. He finished the year on the first line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, picking up three points in seven games. For comparison, that was the same amount Granlund picked up in 16 games with the Canucks. It looked like an early win for the Flames.
The next season did not go so well. Penciled in as a solution for the Flames’ winger depth issues, Shinkaruk didn’t impress in the preseason and was sent down to begin the regular season. He did get seven NHL games, but only registered one assist and looked unconvincing in fourth line minutes. He finished with 35 points in 52 games for the Heat.
Shinkaruk spent the entire season with Stockton, playing in a middle six role with powerplay time. Nothing significant to report except that he was scratched for his final few games of the season for undisclosed reasons. Not a great look when your team sits you out in a desperate playoff chase, but perhaps there were other reasons.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 Points||5v5 Primary points||NHLe|
The first chart isn’t very positive. Shinkaruk was, at all times, much further behind his previous year’s self by anywhere from five to seven NHLe points at a time. Even more concerning is that he rarely broke past the 20 NHLe threshold, generally indicative of a prospect who is at least worth something. He did improve from the start of the season to the end of it, true, but not in leaps or bounds, suggesting that he wasn’t struggling as much as he was just afforded more opportunities.
The positive side is how he scored his points. His 17 5v5 primary points and 26 primary points finishes third among forwards behind Andrew Mangiapane and Morgan Klimchuk, two first liners. His 147 shots were second on the team behind Spencer Foo’s 161. Those are pretty good numbers, especially for a guy who rarely got first line time.
The problem is that he did the same last year. One of the reasons for optimism in spite of his 2016-17 production was that he had great underlying numbers despite his ice time. This year the circumstances didn’t really change but Shinkaruk’s numbers got worse. That’s a pretty significant regression and one that could put him out of the running for an NHL job.
Shinkaruk’s steps backwards as a prospect are perplexing and frustrating. He came to Calgary looking ready to contribute and has fallen backwards to being a non-factor. Better players (Andrew Mangiapane, Morgan Klimchuk) have usurped him since arriving in Calgary, which happens, but he hasn’t held up his end of the bargain either.
Not to say that there haven’t been positive signs. Shinkaruk has been a strong 5v5 points, primary points, and shot generator throughout his AHL career. He seems to be ready to break out given the opportunity, but the problem is that he can only perform that strong in a limited role and without much consistency.
You could probably argue for him to come back as an AHL depth option. Shinkaruk’s positive factors are intriguing enough that keeping him around could pay off. If he takes those skills and actually puts it all together, he could be in the NHL conversation again. He’s not going to go back to his first line spot with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, but he could actually be an NHLer if he hits a new level.
But he’s likely not going to be re-signed in the first place. The incoming crop of WHLers (Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips) offer more in terms of skillset and talent than Shinkaruk. Given Calgary’s development model of placing high end talent high in the lineup, there’s not really a spot for him. There are better, younger players who could really use his ice time. Even if he does take a major jump next season, is he going to really go from AHL third liner to NHL third liner just like that? Probably not.
I think the Granlund-Shinkaruk trade was a good idea. The Flames got a young promising player for an asset that wasn’t really going anywhere (besides a random 19-goal season, Granlund has been one of the worst players in the NHL for point production versus time on ice). It didn’t turn out, which happens sometimes. Sucks.
Spencer Foo | Rasmus Andersson | Tyler Wotherspoon | Oliver Kylington | Josh Healey & Adam Ollas Mattsson | Mitchell Mattson | Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov