Prospect Profile: #5 Hunter Shinkaruk


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?

I spoke to Cody Nickolet, who’s my go-to guy when it comes to all things WHL, about Hunter Shinkaruk’s performance, and what he expects from him in the future:

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:

Other Prospect Profiles in This Series:

    • Mantastic

      He does have more raw potential and skill, but he also has the bigger potential to bust compared to them. Horvat, Gaunce and Corrado are all very safe bets to be NHL playres, Jensen has a safe-ish bet to be one. Shinkaruk is still a bit of a wild guess at this point in his career.

      • Mantastic

        Jensen has a bigger bust factor than Shinkaruk, hands down. the top 5 are all big question marks right now (less so with corrado but he has a low ceiling) but Hunter has the highest ceiling of them all.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I dunno, the top five are almost interchangeable in my opinion. Mostly just depends on what you value.

      Corrado probably tops out as a #3 (out of 6) D, and has played in the NHL and looked like he belongs. Medium ceiling, low risk.

      Jensen has some pretty awesome tools and may still top out as an average 1st line winger, but he hasn’t demonstrated much at the NA pro level. High ceiling, medium risk.

      Gaunce and Horvat are similar, top out as 1st line centres, but are more likely to be 2nd or 3rds based on their skillsets. Appear to be close to pro-ready. Medium to high ceiling, medium to high risk.

      Shinkaruk tops out as a 1st line winger, but is not as close to ready as the previous two. Centres also seem to have a higher value than wingers. High ceiling, high risk.

      This is only my opinion, and my definitions of “risk” are relative to the strata of prospect we’re talking about, not relative to the Jordan Subbans of the world, with all due respect.

      • Mantastic

        how does corrado graduate from prospect status? he still meets all the criteria to be qualified for this list. Jensen’s offense is worse than Shinkaruks, all Jensen has on Hunter is size and being older, his 2-way game is just as bad.

  • Mantastic

    How does Shinkaruk compare to Mason Raymond as a prospect?

    While I’m glad the Canucks got him at #24, smaller skilled wingers aren’t the hardest commodity to find on the free agent market.

    Unless we’re talking about the absolute cream of the crop such as Martin St Louis or Patrick Kane.

    If Shinkaruk becomes a PPG winger in the NHL, obviously this becomes an absolute steal.

    Heck, if he becomes Raymond pre-back injury that would be fine if not frustrating.

    But taking this kind of player at #9 after his scoring stalled in the WHL seems a little high, imo.

    • Mantastic

      Hey look it’s the return of Captain Sunshine! @NM00, you brighten up this cloudy day only like you can. YIKES!

      Nice pick by the Nucks. He has obvious skill and ability. A bit undersized but is the pure offence the Canucks can really use.

      The Canucks should have a big lineup in the near future and that will give Hunter and Jordan Schroeder some room out there.

      It’s impossible to tell where Hunter and Schroeder are headed. Both are smaller, skilled guys. Hunter seems to have WAY MORE upside and both will need to have the heart to play in the NHL. Another case of wait and see. Hunter is at least a couple years away as are most of our blue chip prospects.

      • Mantastic

        Love you too sport.

        “It’s impossible to tell where Hunter and Schroeder are headed. Both are smaller, skilled guys. Hunter seems to have WAY MORE upside and both will need to have the heart to play in the NHL.”

        Shinkaruk may have the perceived higher ceiling now.

        But Schroeder was once considered a very high ceiling prospect as well.

    • Mantastic

      If you’re just comparing them as prospects, then Raymond wasn’t in the same league (figuratively and literally). Raymond put up 62 points in 57 games in the Alberta Junior Hockey League at age 18. Shinkaruk put up 91 points in 66 games at 17, and 86 in 64 at 18, in the WHL. If you want to argue that Raymond’s career path is atypical for someone with his pre-draft credentials, that’s one things, but comparing 18 year old Raymond to 18 year old Shinkaruk in terms of projected future, then it’s Shinkaruk by a mile.

      • Mantastic

        Yes and that’s why Shinkaruk was considered a potential top 10 talent and still was drafted in the 1st round.

        Obviously Raymond took a big step forward after being drafted which improved his prospect stock and has made him one of the better players in the 2005 class.

        Not that I’m a scout, but calling Raymond a high ceiling talent in his early 20’s seemed fair, didn’t it?

        And a small, high ceiling talent (which both Shinkaruk & Schroeder are/were when drafted) ending up as middle of the roster players isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

        It’s just not hard finding that commodity in free agency is all.

        • I’m not a scout either, and even if I was, I never saw Raymond play before he made the NHL. Still, based on what he did before he made the NHL (in terms of goals and assists), I don’t see anything that suggests that he should have been expected to have 2nd line winger potential/ceiling, so no, I don’t think that would be fair to say. The fact that Raymond scored 25 goals in today’s NHL definitely seems to be atypical based on his track record up until then.

          Just to bring this back to Shinkaruk, scoring 1.4 ppg as a 17 year old in today’s CHL is a huge feat. Neither Schroeder nor Raymond ever put up as impressive a season as that, and if the argument is that small skilled wingers with high ceiling are a dime a dozen, well I’d argue that those players’ ceilings and Shinkaruk’s are not comparable. That’s not to say that I think he’s a superstar in the making. He regressed in his draft season, and the consensus among those who actually have skin in the game (i.e. the GMs) is that he was overrated to the tune of about 15 draft spots. Let’s wait and see how much (or if) he crushes the league as an overager.

          • Mantastic

            Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

            When I’m referring to ceiling I don’t just mean points in the CHL at a young age.

            What Shinkaruk has done (espescially in 2011-2012) is quite impressive in that regard.

            I’m speaking more from a tools perspective.

            Which, seemingly, Raymond had (and maybe still has) though it hasn’t translated on the ice for a while now.

        • Mantastic

          Raymond has poor vision and his hands can’t keep up with his speed. Shinkaruk has off the charts hands and is an above average playmaker. Just cause they’re both relatively small and flashy doesn’t make them comparable.

    • andyg

      Very different players.

      Raymond’s game is based on speed and a good wrist shot. Never showed much for hands in front of the net. Scored goals in junior using his speed.

      Hunter has the wrist shot and good speed but is also a very good play maker. He uses all the ice and goes straight to the net even in traffic.
      The kid has the hands of of a goal scorer.

  • Mantastic

    “Heck, if he becomes Raymond pre-back injury that would be fine if not frustrating.”

    The problem with Raymond is he’s not scoring 25 goals without primo power play.

    The two players don’t really have much in common thing the players have in common is they’re both slight. They don’t play the game in remotely the same way.

    Shinkaruk is more toolsy offensively than Raymond, with significantly better hands. Raymond is a better, faster, skater though Shinkaruk has a deceptive stride that makes him harder to predict. I also think Shinkaruk is a more aggressive forechecker, Raymond the better backchecker.

    • Mantastic

      Irrespective of what one feels about Mason Raymond, he’s a pretty successful draft pick.

      He was selected 51st overall in 2005 and is 15th in games played and 12th in points from that draft class.

      I would have to think any redraft of the 2005 class would have him as a top 30 player at minimum.

      If Shinkaruk has a Raymond-like career, that would be reasonably good for a player who fell to #24 on draft day.

      At the same time, there’s a reason he fell just like Schroeder, Jensen & Gaunce.

      The strategy of taking falling forwards hasn’t exactly been fruitful for Vancouver yet.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        This is a perfect post noting how people can tweek stats and make them support their cause.

        Mason, overall, has some meh stats when you look at his draft class. What you don’t see in the numbers are the numerous other factors. NM00 is one of those guys who gets an ounce of knowledge then thinks he knows it all. People like that often turn into our radicals, misguided, preachers and other delusional types. Anyway, you have to look at what else happened along Mason’s tenure here in order to provide any meaningful analysis. Among the topics that should be brought to light are:
        1) Playing in some of the best teams in the NHL in their given years (some of the best teams in NHL history)

        2) Having a couple of seasons with some excellent numbers as well as numerous seasons where he did next to nothing.

        3) The back injury.

        These are just a few. I think Mason showed he can be a 25 goal player but isn’t willing to pay the price to be that guy. He is quickly learning potential earns you a pay cheque for only so long. Sure, he has ability but you only saw it for a short time at the NHL level. Mason can now wear down the perimeter of the ice in someone else’s rink. A nice guy and hopefully he can up his game next year. I think the Canucks were more than fair with him.

          • Dimitri Filipovic

            Fun exercise. I counted 24 guys (though 3-4 of them could probably be disputed effectively). Can’t believe Patric Hornqvist was the Mr.Irrelevant of that class.

          • Dimitri Filipovic

            With the benefit of hindsight, Raymond is a late 1st rounder for me as well.

            Which is why I’d consider Shinkaruk having a Raymond-like career to be a fair outcome considering the acquisition cost.

          • Dimitri Filipovic

            I’m not too concerned about the other players. The scope of this convo and my comments is directed towards Mason and actually connecting him with Hunter. Sure, they could be the same player down the road; Hunter could be worse or might be way better.

            Mason had 2 solid seasons on talented Canucks teams. He never had great finish and was never a sniper. I am sure his severe back injury was a factor but who knows.

            Hunter Shinkaruk looks like he has more grit than Mason, better hands, more agile and not as timid. The big question is to see if that translates to the NHL. He was also named a captain and that also speaks volume of character and tells you a bit about his intangibles. I am almost certain you can bring up tons of players whose junior numbers sucked and they thrived in the NHL and vice versa. THere is no way of telling…if NHL teams can’t predict this stuff there is no way you can.

            I guess, looking at your question, I don’t know if there are 50 better players. These guys are entering their prime and there’s no way to tell. Looking at current stats, I would argue it’s a toss up and I am working on the premise that Mason will never repeat those two good years. He doesn’t seem to want it enough; maybe something will click and he’ll realize he needs to do more.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I think 5 is a pretty fair place for him. I think if you factor in his size and position, you have to think he’s a prospect that is going back down to fill out a little. It’s much better in the long run to let the kid mature physically (See Oilers RNH). He also gets another year of being a leader under his belt which helps his mental maturity and confidence. My opinion, he goes back regardless of the camp he has. The guys ahead of him on the list, save perhaps Horvat, have legit shots at cracking the lineup with good camps. At least one, maybe two of them, has a job to win or lose.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        They really had no choice. They sucked at the time and it was a risk, but Kane was lighting it up big time and ready. We have options, I’d rather not take that risk until the kid is physically mature enough to dominate the way Kane did in Junior. No comparison really. Are Shinkaruk and Kane really comparable? 2 entirely different organizations at differing points in time, with different needs, 2 entirely different players, places. etc. etc. None of this factors into a prospects path? Place and time just don’t matter? Let’s just heap all small players into the category “Patrick Kane”.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    The bust factor w shrink arum is only how high does the person think his offensive talent will be. Seems to me that scoring will be what defines Hunters game. Glad he made strides with his playmaking ability this past year. I believe that Gaunce and Horvat were ranked ahead of Hunter because they have an all around game. If Bi doesn’t become a 30 goal scorer, he can become a defensive face off center on a great 3 rd line. If Hunter doesn’t put up 25-30 goals what will his role be in the NHL? That being said, I believe he will be a very good scorer in the NHL

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      It’s debatable as to whether or not that would be a win for Vancouver considering Shinkaruk was a 24th overall pick.

      More like holding value, I’d argue.

      Finding Mason Raymond isn’t difficult.

      Just look to the free agent market where he currently resides.

      • andyg

        I think Cam meant finding Mason Raymond *in the draft* at 24th or lower, and that’s true.

        If Shinkaruk develops into the player Raymond probably would have been if it wasn’t for his injury – a solid second-line winger who scores 40-50 points, drives play, and plays a good two way game – that will be a win for Vancouver. Yes, you can find those players in free agency, but teams often overpay for them and they’re not a dime a dozen like you suggest. There’s nothing wrong with drafting and developing good mid-level talent. Not every player you draft and develop needs to be star or bust.

        • Mantastic

          But that’s not necessarily true.

          If Shinkaruk ends up becoming around the 24th best player from the draft class, which I’d suggest is around where Raymond slots in for the 2005 class, that’s not a win.

          It’s not a loss either.

          It’s merely maintaining value.

          • Mantastic

            The argument does kinda ignore the fact that the 2013 draft was (allegedly) much deeper than the 2005 draft was.

            Assuming that’s true, maintaining value for this selection spot results in a player better than Mason Raymond. How much value is an open question, and of course, the assumption can be challenged.

      • JCDavies

        While Schroeder and Shinkaruk unquestionably fell in the draft, I think it could be reasonably argued that Gaunce and Jensen were selected more or less where they were expected to be.

        • Mantastic

          I’d have to go back and look it up, but I seem to remember Gaunce & Jensen being rated at least a little higher than where they were eventually selected.

          Schroeder, if I remember correctly, didn’t just fall on draft day. His prospect stock was falling for months prior to being selected as well.

          For the record, I’m not completely against selecting falling forwards per se.

          I’m just not sure the same strategy should be used over and over again with little evidence that it is working.

          And it also seems to fit in with Gillis’s overarching philosophy of getting “something” from draft picks as opposed to taking on more risk with boom or bust types.

          A philosophy which I consider to be completely backwards for a big market cap team.

          • JCDavies

            I asked you once how you decide if a player has fallen in the draft and you said a player would need to fall “maybe 5 picks minimum? 8?”, which I would agree with.

            In my opinion, at the top of the draft, a player would need to fall about 4 to 5 places to be considered a player that has fallen in the draft and that that number should increase further down the draft board as the picks become less certain.

            Depending on how you do this, I believe that you could make a reasonable argument that Jensen and Gaunce were selected close enough to their projected positions that they wouldn’t be considered to have fallen.

            Schroeder:

            TSN’s (Mckenzie) list had him at 15. The Hockey News had him at 9.

            http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?fid=11892

            “For the record, I’m not completely against selecting falling forwards per se.

            I’m just not sure the same strategy should be used over and over again with little evidence that it is working.

            And it also seems to fit in with Gillis’s overarching philosophy of getting “something” from draft picks as opposed to taking on more risk with boom or bust types.

            A philosophy which I consider to be completely backwards for a big market cap team.”

            I know, I hear ya. You’ve been pretty consistent on this.

            I’m still taking it all in before I pass judgement on Gillis’ drafting record but I understand where your coming from.

    • JCDavies

      This is basically the “if the Canucks get any sort of NHL player out of the 24th overall pick, it’s a win” argument, which, while true, is kind of underwhelming.

      If this comes to pass, I predict many future Cam Charron articles explaining to Canuck fans the real expected value of a late first-round draft pick.

  • JCDavies

    Wow most of you guys are developing as much distain for NMOO as he has for Gillis. As far as Shinkaruk goes, he’s not even close to the same player as our greatest warrior (Linden), but drafting a first rounder from the Hat worked out the last time we tried it. I’m happy to see us drafting first rounders with Canadian passports. It’s generally where NHL grit is born.

    • Mantastic

      Indeed. I got branded for having a “Canadian Boner” for talk like this….kids these days.

      Since they are also vying for spots on the WJC roster. What I like, and what has yet to be mentioned in any of this, is that 3 of our top 5 players are destined to be competing for jobs within the same 2 systems this season, Elite Junior and Elite-ish NHL. Any time these guys spend together on the ice is invaluable as it’s the birthplace of chemistry. To have them doing so outside of the Canuck organization is such a huge bonus, and rare. I give management huge Kudos on this one as I think it’s a perfect way to develop a younger core group.