Vancouver Canucks: Hunter Shinkaruk Should Be Next Injury Call Up


The Vancouver Canucks have been plagued by injuries this season, resulting in a long list of roster transactions. But yet, there is one player who has not got the NHL ice time he deserves: Hunter Shinkaruk.

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When Hunter Shinkaruk entered the NHL Draft in 2013, there was little concern about his scoring abilities. The problem was rather his defensive game, and at 5’11” and 175 lbs, some thought he might be too small. Still, the Vancouver Canucks liked what they saw, and they can be happy with what they got with their 24th-overall pick.

Shinkaruk is now in his second full pro season and he is doing admirably as a forward for the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets. He finished the 2015-16 campaign with 16 goals and 31 points, and is producing at a point-per-game pace this year. He is also much more responsible in his own end than he was back in Medicine Hat, where he played for the WHL’s Tigers. That earned him a first game in the NHL, but he only got 9:35 of ice time in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Montreal Canadiens. Why not more?

With 11 goals and 19 points in 19 games for Utica this season, Shinkaruk is proving what everybody knew: he knows how to score. With the Canucks struggling to do so outside of the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, what is it that is keeping Shinkaruk down in Utica for so long?

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Well, the Canucks simply have no one to send down unless there is an injury. There are teams in the NHL that have a bottom six, or at least a bottom line, of forwards that are waiver-exempt and on two-way contracts. The Canucks, however, do not.

Vancouver currently has four players with two-way contracts on their NHL roster: Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Bo Horvat and Adam Cracknell. So, who is going down so that Shinkaruk can get a shot? Virtanen and McCann are 19-year-old rookies and ineligible to play in the AHL. Sending them back to juniors should not be an option — they are great players and needed in the NHL. Horvat is supposed to be the team’s second-line centre right now, even though he does not play like one, and is therefore not going down either. Then there is Cracknell, who is an important part of Willie Desjardin’s plans, and also waiver-eligible.

So, as you can see, there is nobody that could be sent down in order to make room for Shinkaruk. Therefore, his only chance would be another Canucks injury, which we would obviously never wish anyone. Still, looking at the Canucks behind the Sedins, it is hard not to think that Shinkaruk could help. A line of Shinkaruk, McCann and Radim Vrbata sounds like one that could work.

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With only one NHL game under his belt, nobody knows how ready Shinkaruk really is and how he would do in the NHL. But given the Canucks’ current situation, he is certainly a player who could help. Virtanen will come back from his AHL conditioning stint soon, but if another player gets hurt, there is one guy who would really deserve a call up.