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The Shinkaruk Enigma

Is Training Camp 2018 Hunter’s last hope?

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Once a prized player in the 2013 Draft, Hunter Shinkaruk has gone from a top NHL prospect to the bottom of the pipeline. The question many hockey fans ask about the WHL superstar is: What went wrong? To solve this crux, we must start at the beginning.

This story embarks in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where then 16-year-old Hunter Shinkaruk began his junior career. The 2010-11 season began for Shinkaruk after breaking both his tibia and fibula in his right leg his last year of midgets. These injuries didn’t stop the Calgary native though as he put up 42 points in 63 regular season games, and 9 points in 14 playoff games.

Shinkaruk's grueling days of injury seemed behind him when he scored a stellar 49 goals and 91 points in 66 games his sophomore season, leading even future NHL 30-goal scorer Brendan Gallagher. Shinkaruk was named captain for what seemed like his last year in juniors. He netted 37 goals and turned from a 2nd/3rd round NHL pick to a lottery pick. He could skate, he could score, and he could lead.

Central Scouting ranked Shinkaruk the 6th best North American skater, above Max Domi, Madison Bowey, and future teammates Curtis Lazar and Bo Horvat. Come draft day, the Vancouver Canucks selected Shinkaruk 24th overall. He signed his entry-level deal that August, and was set for training camp in the fall.

For the first time in his career, Shinkaruk failed to crack his team out of camp. The Canucks returned him to Medicine Hat, where he sustained a hip injury early in the season. Shinkaruk played through his injury in hopes to play for Canada in the World Juniors, but like in September, he was cut. He decided to end his season and undergo hip surgery hoping to make the Canucks that fall. Once again, Hunter was cut, but this time Vancouver sent him to Utica, where he played a full season, including a deep playoff run.

The next season, Shinkaruk lead Utica in points before being traded to the Flames for top-9 forward Markus Granlund. He made his Flames debut a month later, recording his first point. Two days later he scored his first goal. Another season went by and Shinkaruk saw more NHL games. He scored a single point in his seven-game stint and hasn’t seen a single game since 2016/17. What went wrong? How did a former 90-point scorer in one of the top junior leagues in the world only play 7 NHL games? Why was he traded for a fourth liner? We may never know. Was it because he kept delaying his hip injury to chase his NHL dream? If he had taken his post-draft season off, would he have cracked the Canucks the next season 100% healthy? Most likely. Shinkaruk will most likely be signed to a 1-year contract. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp, this will most likely be his last season in Calgary, and possibly his last shot in the NHL.