Prospect Profile: #2 Hunter Shinkaruk

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The question of how a prospect that only appeared in 18 games last season, and performed poorly, yet still managed to jump up three spots after having been ranked 5th by our staff last summer is a fair one, although I’d caution that 1/3 of the voters involved have changed since then. That probably has more to do with the shift than anything else, really.

With that being said, it’s also surely a testament to what we believe is Hunter Shinkaruk’s dynamism as a prospect. That high-end skill level explains why we continue to have Shinkaruk rated this high on our list, despite his most recent ‘lost’ season.

Shinkaruk’s disappointing campaign was reflected in my own personal rankings, where he dropped from the top spot to firmly in second behind the guy we all know is number one on this list at this point. Still, I remain steadfast in my belief that Shinkaruk has the greatest reasonable ceiling among any player currently in the team’s system. 

Though we remain bullish on Shinkaruk’s prospects of developing into an impact player at the NHL level, there are some significant red flags that significantly impact his projections. Obviously the hip surgery which kept him off of the ice for nearly 7 months is the big one here but there’s also the drop in play he exhibited prior to having his ’13-’14 season end prematurely. 

I spoke with WHL scout Cody Nickolet about what he was seeing from Shinkaruk early on last season:

“Yes, his lackluster production in ’13-’14 was definitely due to the injury.

Even from seeing him early in the year you could tell something just wasn’t quite right with his game. Normally a player of his calibre really steps his game up following the season he gets drafted, especially when he was a first round selection. We just didn’t see that with Hunter before the start of December. He didn’t have the same explosiveness and power in his stride and he didn’t seem as involved as he had been in the past.

As a bit of a side note, his hip problem makes me wonder. Most people who follow prospects closely know that Hunter has a bit of an odd skating stride in that he uses his inside edges a lot and does a ton of pivoting with his body, just like Jeff Skinner and Crosby like to do. I wonder if that played into the cause of the injury at all and also wonder if the surgery will alter how he skates and plays the game. That’s all speculation on my point and I guess we’ll find out soon.”

In a somewhat sadistic way, that comes as a relief, if not a surprise. It’s impossible to definitively quantify how much of Shinkaruk’s suppressed production can be attributed to the injury he was nursing, though Cody’s sentiments have seemed to be universally echoed by those in the know.

Anecdotally, I remember seeing him live back in November and – despite the show he put on after the game – coming away rather unimpressed by his individual performance. At the time I chalked that up to noise that accompanies a one-time viewing, but retrospectively the lack of a higher gear and general tentativeness which plagued his shortened season makes sense given what we now know. 

Prior to his draft eligible season (or two summers ago), Corey Pronman raved about his innate ability to get around the ice, accentuating the other prevalent tools in his arsenal in a symbiotic manner:

He moves effortlessly as a skater, showing the ability to gain power from each stride. That allows him to divert more energy to his 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.

It would make sense that a relatively serious hip ailment would be even more potentially restricting to Shinkaruk than to most others, given that understanding. And after having attempted to slog through the schedule since initially tweaking it in the 6th game of the season – presumably with his eyes firmly fixated on getting to represent his country in the World Junior Championships – he was promptly shut down shortly after being cut from the team.

Losing a year like Shinkaruk did, during a key point in his developmental curve, is far from ideal. There’s still legitimate reasons to be excited about him as a prospect. Corey Pronman had him tabbed as the 31st best prospect in the entire league last month, which is once again a testament to how highly Shinkaruk is thought of; Pronman would be the first to admit that he’s of a more conservative nature as it relates to his rankings and methodology, but in speaking with him I’d describe his attitude on the player as “cautiously optimistic”. 

The pervasive Shiny New Toy Syndrome can be a tough thing to overcome, but it’d be foolhardy to overlook the past exploits of a player that has still yet to turn 20 years old. Remember that when adjusting for league and era, Hunter Shinkaruk’s production in his first draft-eligible season not only placed him amongst some elite company, but also blew someone like Jake Virtanen’s out of the water.

This coming season will undoubtedly be a big one for Shinkaruk, in a few respects. By stepping back onto the ice he’ll have a chance to dissuade people of any lingering fear about how his surgically repaired hip will respond to game action. I reached out to someone far more qualified to speculate about the minutiae of the injury for someone with Shinkaruk’s profile.

She was quick to point out that while nothing is set in stone in medicine, Shinkaruk should theoretically not be more predisposed to additional (related) injury than any of his peers, and that the actual recovery itself from the procedure he had is relatively straightforward. It’s worth noting that he’ll have had a lengthy window to fully heal by the time he competes in this coming weekend’s Young Stars Classic, which is quite important in ensuring there isn’t re-injury in these situations.

Beyond that, Shinkaruk will also be afforded an opportunity to show that his game can translate to the next level against grown men despite concerns about his build. As per the NHL-CHL agreement Shinkaruk is AHL-eligible in ’14, and barring an otherworldly showing in the next couple of weeks, he’ll likely at the very least start his season with the Comets. 

What the rest of the campaign holds for him remains to be seen but as we noted when profiling Nicklas Jensen last week, Shinkaruk’s particular skills lend themselves to the optimistic belief that he could potentially help the Canucks at some point in the coming year.

OTHER PROFILES IN THIS SERIES:

  • Fred-65

    Shinkaruk has a chnace to be the most individual skiiled player drafted by Vcr since “Billy D” or he could be a bust…I’m leaning towards a Patrick Kane like player, I’m excited to see this guy play and frankly his threshold IMO is higher than Horvat

    • Andy

      Billy D? Are you talking about Bill Derlago? I’m pretty sure Bure on two broken knees was still a far superior talent compared to Derlago. And I’d say Bure at his best is easily the most individually skilled Canuck draft pick of all time. I’d be surprised if Shinkaruk had Kane quality upside but yeah, I think he has the talent to be a first liner.

  • elvis15

    The discussion about Shink at #2 has been interesting, and there will be concern over his ability to stay consistent through an AHL schedule, let alone an NHL one after most of a year off. He could start out strong (I hope so, since I’m heading to the Young Stars and it’d be great to watch) but he’ll likely slow a bit mid way through the year as the missed time and increased intensity catches up with him.

    Then again, if anyone can over come that it might be him.

  • elvis15

    Wow, this is going to end without Linden Vey on the list at all. He’s played less games than Nicklas Jensen so should easily qualify and is arguably the #1 prospect the franchise has, Top 3 minimum. How was he omitted or not catagorized as a prospect?

    • giveittocheech

      Linden Vey is expected to make the jump to the NHL as management has stated they expect him to have a big roll on the roster with Vancouver this season, there for he isn’t considered a prospect.

      But if he was I’m sure he’d be in the top 3 😉

    • giveittocheech

      Pretty sure it is because in order for him to go down to Utica he would have to pass through waivers – where he would most definitely be picked up by another team – therefor eliminating the chances of jimmy sending him down to the AHL. As mentioned by others, management has repeatedly referenced that they have plans for Vey and they plan to use him at the NHL level. At this point, calling Vey a “prospect” would be a reach given the organizations plans for him.

    • Jim Robson

      I presume, as with Vey, his age has been taken into consideration and he is not classified as a prospect. Which is fair enough I think.

      Otherwise yes I would agree with you, he was almost single-handedly the reason Utica did not finish dead last in the AHL last year.

      • Mantastic

        Yeah, I have to disagree. I think Vey and Eriksson should have been included here especially if Jensen and Corrado made the list. This list doesn’t really make much sense that way…

        I think Vey will do rather well and will take fans by surprise especially when very few people are talking about him. Hell, this list ignored him all together.

        • Dimitri Filipovic

          We’ve been over this already in past comments sections. Vey is essentially assured a spot on the opening day roster since the team can’t send him down to Utica without exposing him on waivers. As a result, we decided to profile him during a lineup preview series we’ll be running during the preseason instead.

          • Andy

            I’ve seen that you’ve given this answer regarding Vey before and I think it sort of makes sense except that there seem to be so many exceptions to this that it appears to be kind of an arbitrary choice. Tommernes appears on here even though he’s 24, but Markstrom is the same age, like Vey can’t be sent to the minors without a waiver claim and until the recent souring on him has been a pretty highly ranked prospect. Is Markstrom also going to be profiled along with Vey? It just seems a bit odd who you included and who you didn’t on the “prospects” list in terms of some of those older or more experienced (like Jensen and Corrado).

  • elvis15

    Shinkaruk is the Canucks prospect that I’m most excited about, and the one whom I feel has the best chance of becoming an impact scorer for the Canucks.

  • Jim Robson

    As riveting as discussion about Linden Vey and Joacim Eriksson is, I’ll try to bring things back to Hunter Shinkaruk here. The ranking is an interesting one.. Not that I disagree but I guess it’s a question of how strong your stomach is. Shinkaruk seems to be especially high risk/high reward, which all things considered is OK in my books. I know I’ll be following his transition next season quite closely.

    Thanks for the write up.

  • Jim Robson

    I think Hunter has a great future, but if you asked me who has a better chance to not reach his ceiling and still be a better player…. Jake V. The Size and speed can give him a complete game. Both should fit well, with Horvat McCann.

  • Mantastic

    @CJ:

    LOL! Actually, I think Blomstrand is getting profiled like Linden Vey, because the CA writers think that Blomstrand is going to make the big club out of camp.

  • Mantastic

    While I’m excited about Shinkaruk as a prospect, I wonder if the Canucks, and possibly he, wouldn’t be better served by him going back to JR for the next year? He could play a ton of minutes, get back up to game speed and a year doesn’t get burned off his ELC in a season which doesn’t have the makings of a great one.

    • Andy

      Well, he’s AHL eligible, so I think we can even call him up as needed, so we’ve got 9 regular season games before an ELC year is used up.

      @Dimitri – I get the Vey explanation; any comment on the lack of Eriksson?