August 26 2013 10:47AM
Image via Matthew Henderson
Back in June, I took in the 2013 NHL entry draft from the confines of Cam Charron's dimly lit basement (*). I was covering the event for Canucks Army, while he was covering it for our sister site, The Leafs Nation, so we were both refreshing our Twitter timelines feverishly while waiting for something worthwhile to happen. We didn't have to wait all that long, as it only took a few picks for news to break that the Vancouver Canucks had traded
Roberto Luongo Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the 9th overall pick.
(*) It was actually a nice little apartment, and Cam isn't doing all that bad for himself, but people seem to enjoy the whole 'blogger lives in his mother's basement' thing. Having had my heart broken by finding out that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy didn't actually exist once upon a time, I don't want to shatter anyone else's dreams.
It definitely caught both of us by surprise, but we reached the same conclusion - the Canucks are doing this to draft Hunter Shinkaruk (I would've personally taken Valeri Nichushkin there, but figured the team wasn't going down that path). I saw Shinkaruk play three times this past year in person, and had read a lot about him, so I was pumped up about the idea that the Canucks were making a splash to insert such a highly gifted offensive prospect into their system.
And then the Canucks used the pick to select Bo Horvat, which left me more than perplexed. Why would they do that when a better prospect (in my mind) was available? But then, somehow, seemingly against all odds, Shinkaruk fell to the team's original pick at 24, where they snatched him up. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than to be good, right?
Read on past the jump for more on Vancouver's other first round pick from this summer's entry draft.
Let me put my money where my mouth is: I had Hunter Shinkaruk as the top ranked prospect in the team's system when we compiled our rankings, but was unfortunately outvoted by the others. That's not to say that I'm right and they're all wrong, because that's hardly the case, but I feel pretty strongly about what the Medicine Hat Tigers standout could do one day at the NHL level. His upside is off the charts.
I think Corey Pronman agrees with me. When he released his Top 100 draft-eligible prospects back in June, he listed Shinkaruk as the 10th best prospect on the board (with Bo Horvat coming in at #14). He also published a mock draft, in which he had Shinkaruk being selected 14th overall by the Blue Jackets (Horvat was taken 19th in that particular mock, by the way). Pronman had quite a thorough scouting report on him in there, too:
"Despite being a little on the smaller side, he deserves a top 10 ranking, as he possesses an immense amount of unique offensive talent. He moves effortlessly as a skater, showing the ability to gain power from each stride. That allows him to divert more energy to playmaking. His agility makes him tough to check in open ice. He turns his hips a lot, and his wide skating stance makes it difficult to predict where he will move. That said, his speed only ranks as good, not top end. Shinkaruk has rapid hands, and he can be very dangerous due to his creativity and coordination. Shinkaruk's physical game is his main issue. He is a small player, but he does work hard. He shows the ability to grind for the puck, but he will need to become stronger to keep it at the next level."
Below is his year-by-year production as a Junior:
Simply put, his offensive output over the past two seasons in the WHL were mouth-watering. As you probably noticed, though, he took a slight step back in the goal scoring department this past year, scoring 12 fewer goals. What happened there?
DF: Describe Shinkaruk's game for fans that may be somewhat unfamiliar with it.
"He's not the biggest guy and doesn't have the prettiest skating stride, but he gets the job done thanks to his large assortment of tools. He's so offensively skilled. He's got great hands as I consider him to be both a quality goal scorer and above-average playmaker. He's got great vision and very good instincts in all three zones of the ice. He's got a different way of skating, relying on both his inside and outside edges much more than most top prospects. But, it doesn't really change the result in regards to his top speed as a skater or his mobility around the rink."
DF: Why do you think he slid in the NHL draft? And how do you think his game projects at the NHL level:
"He's a confident individual and I know that confidence has been sometimes been seen as arrogance. That might be a reason why he "slid" a little bit in the draft, at least relative to where some scouting agencies had pegged him to go. With that being said, it's an inexact science and pretty hard to name reasons why a certain player might have dropped a bit in the draft.
As for how he projects, I really think he has what it takes to be a very solid top 6 forward. He's got the skill and versatility to fit in to the Canucks system very nicely. He's played both center and the wing in the past, although I think his game is better suited on the wing. I expect him to have another big offensive year with Medicine Hat in 2013-14. After that, I think his transition to the NHL is bound to go through the AHL. That's not a knock against him, I just think a year in the AHL will greatly benefit his growth as a young player and as a person. I don't expect his stay in the AHL will be much longer than one season, but we'll see."
I have a few points to make on Shinkaruk before we finish this profile off with some fun videos of what he can do out there. First off, just keep in mind that he's still just 18 years old, and doesn't turn 19 until October 13th. He has plenty of room for growth - both as a hockey player, but also in the literal sense when it comes to bulking up and getting stronger - over the coming years.
I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him go back to the WHL and run roughshod over the competition. Especially since I'm at the Pacific Coliseum quite a bit during the fall and winter, and would love to see him come to town on November 15th and January 22nd. It has been a while since such a hyped Vancouver Canucks prospect was available to be seen in action like that. Plus, I'm sure we'd be able to wrangle in an interesting interview or two for you guys.
I think he did just fine last year all things considered. I remember getting into the pressbox for his first visit to Vancouver last year, and hearing how much buzz and chatter there was about him being a potential Top 5 pick. Everyone had their eyes on him, and I'm sure the pressure he faced and the attention he received was something he hadn't experienced before (to that degree, at least). Especially since his running mate from the previous year, Emerson Etem, had left for greener pastures (the Anaheim Ducks).
Finally, in my discussion with Cody, he also mentioned that the coaches were praising Shinkaruk for how he had made a point of making the players around him better (went up from 42 to 49 assists) and how he had assumed a bigger leadership role as the captain of the team.
Without further ado, here are some of his highlights. Some of these moves are absolutely filthy, and that shot is wicked. Enjoy, but please, keep your hands where I can see them: