Take note London and Medicine Hat…just been told Canucks’ 1st Rd Picks Horvat and Shinkaruk will start the season in the NHL.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) September 27, 2013
Well, there you have it. We’ve spent the past few weeks mulling over the idea that the Canucks could start the season with some of their top prospects in the lineup, and now it’s looking like that will be the case. After the 5-0 spanking of Rangers to conclude the preseason slate of games last night, the team sent Frankie Corrado back to Utica, and assigned Brendan Gaunce back to his junior team, the Belleville Bulls.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise at anyone at this point, since the writing was certainly on the wall following the Zack Kassian suspension and Jordan Schroeder injury (not to mention Nicklas Jensen’s issues). Both Horvat and Shinkaruk shined in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, and then more than held their own this preseason.
What’s next for both the team, and the two players themselves? Read on past the jump.
Essentially the same lines today as last nite for Van, save an absent Richardson Barring waiver wire move, that’s your opening night lineup
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) September 27, 2013
That’s a big disclaimer, though, as Mike Gillis – during his appearance on the Midday Show yesterday – certainly made it sound like the team was just waiting to pounce on the waiver wire at this point. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that.
During that same appearance Gillis also had a very telling quote when asked about Frank Corrado, stating that "it doesn’t make sense for any young player to be watching from the stands and not playing". So for the time being, I’d expect both guys to get legitimate ice-time for as long as they’re up (or until they prove that they’re not capable of handling it).
For what it’s worth, in today’s practice Shinkaruk skated with Santorelli and Booth on what’s essentially the team’s 3rd line, with Horvat centering Weise and Sestito. If Botchford is right, then Richardson would most likely replace Sestito on the 4th line.
This is a story we’ll undoubtedly be tracking for the next few weeks, as it’s very fluid. Remember that a junior player can play up to 9 games as a "trial period" of sorts. After that the Canucks will have to determine whether it’s worth it to keep them up, or whether they’re better off sending them back down to Medicine Hat (Shinkaruk) and London (Horvat), respectively.
Heading into the preseason I thought that there was no way that Shinkaruk in particular would be ready to handle the NHL level from a physical perspective, and while that may very well still prove to be true, he has earned his chance for the time being. As for Horvat, the track record for 18-year old centers sticking around at the NHL level isn’t all that good, but the Canucks are clearly in win-now mode, and their lack of depth down the middle works in his favour.
For what it’s worth that 9th game would be on October 19th at Pittsburgh; Kassian and Schroeder should conceivably be ready to go by then. It’s up to the two ’13 1st rounders to force the team’s hand, I guess.
What do you think about all of this? Are you happy to see them start the year with the team? And do you think that they’ll play well enough to stick around after that?