Although a part of the organization since draft day nearly three years ago, Hunter Shinkaruk’s stay with the Vancouver Canucks really only amounted to 13 shifts and 9:35 of ice time. That was all he got in his one and only look at the big league level earlier this season in Montreal. And that, to me, is the biggest shame in all of this.
That on a team struggling so mightily to score goals this season – Sunday night versus Colorado notwithstanding – the Canucks refused to give their leading goal-scoring prospect more than one brief look at the tail end of a road trip when those around him had nothing left in the tank. Oh, and they used a guy oozing skill at a lower level in a bottom six role that night. Welcome to the National Hockey League, kid.
A lot is being said by both sides after Monday’s eyebrow-raising deal between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames. The Canucks acknowledged Shinkaruk’s goal-scoring ability at the American Hockey League level where he led the Utica Comets with 21 goals in 45 games. In the same breath, though, general manager Jim Benning expressed concerns about whether Shinkaruk would be able to score those same goals at the next level. For their part, the Flames say they project the Calgary native as a top-six forward which means Shinkaruk will join the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett as the offensive future of one of the Canucks’ chief rivals.
Again, it’s all just talk today and nobody knows for sure. That’s the beauty of trades like this one – everyone has an opinion and with Twitter they’ve got an outlet to express it. The downside, of course, is that so much of the reaction is just noise with so little based in fact. Few – and I’ll put myself at the top of this list — have watched Shinkaruk shift in and shift out this season. Oh, like many, I’ve seen highlights and the goals certainly jump off YouTube and the stats page, but other than that I have no first-hand knowledge of the areas Shinkaruk has developed his game or the ways in which he needs to improve still to make the jump to the NHL. I read as much as I could out of Utica and it certainly sounded like Shinkaruk had made strides in some of those areas needed to be more than a one-dimensional goal-scorer.
At the same time, though, I have to admit I was intrigued by the notion that the Canucks had a one-dimensional guy waiting in the wings because as an organization they are so sorely lacking in the one dimension that Hunter Shinkaruk excels. To me, Shinkaruk wasn’t so much a player as he was an idea – one of hope for higher scoring days ahead for the Vancouver Canucks. Markus Granlund may turn into a solid piece of the Canucks future, but on the surface, he just doesn’t represent hope the same way Shinkaruk does. Or did before he was dealt away to a division rival.
Now, I seem to recall much of the Canucks fan base was hardly enthused when the team sent a second round pick to the hated Flames for Sven Baertschi a year ago. Twelve months later, it appears the Canucks made out just fine in that transaction although it will be some time still before a final verdict can be rendered. However, with Baertschi sitting at a dozen goals after a slow start to his season, there’s very little grumbling now.
With Monday’s deal, most of the early reviews have not been favourable for the Canucks management group, but that’s likely just loyalty being shown to a player the fans here had been longing for. Shinkaruk had sizzle that few recent Canucks prospects have had. There’s no need to revisit the organization’s recent history of drafting and developing NHL scorers. The proof is on the ice – and on the scoreboard — on a nightly basis these days.
At first glance, there isn’t much lustre to Granlund even though put up better numbers in the AHL than Shinkaruk and already has 86 games of NHL experience under his belt. In his post-trade conference call Benning trumpeted his new acquisition’s two-way game and his ability to penalty kill. There’s nothing wrong with that type of player, but it seems the Canucks already have a few of those on the roster and more waiting in the wings. What they don’t have is an abundance of pure goal scorers.
The page has been turned on Hunter Shinkaruk’s brief time in the Vancouver Canucks organization. He’s now a Calgary Flame and in due time we’ll see if he comes back to burn his former team — a team, that for whatever reasons, wasn’t willing to give the guy with the big-league shot a legitimate shot to show what he could do in the NHL.