Sunday, September 22, 2013

One To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are still considered one of the contending teams in the Western conference but for the first time in a few years there appears to be talented youth on the way. Camp has seen solid performances from recent draftees and it's compelling to see how many, if any, of the prospects at camp earn a spot with the big club. 

2012 Choice: Joe Cannata - The former Merrimack standout played sparingly in the AHL and ECHL last season and received a late season recall to sit on the bench while Cory Schneider was injured. Cannata posted decent numbers in AHL Chicago and oddly enough, pretty forgettable ones with ECHL Kalamazoo. He should see a lot more starting time this year.

My 2013-14 One to Watch for Vancouver comes after the jump.

Hunter Shinkaruk (LW)
Medicine Hat Tigers
5'10, 179 lbs
Drafted 24th overall in 2013

Photo: Larry MacDougal
The dynamic, high scoring Medicine Hat winger has a lot of supporters who go on and on about his offensive game and what a star he'll be one day in the NHL. I'm not one of them. 

Don't get me wrong; I think Shinkaruk does possess an extremely high level of skill with the puck and a terrific shot as well but it would be safe to say that he consistently underwhelms me when I see him in person. 

I've said it many times before that seeing the Edmonton Oil Kings neutralize Shinkaruk, relatively easily, for the last two seasons it's puzzled me why other teams get lit up by him. Play him physical and he disappears, simple as that, and that's at the junior level. 

Some people were stunned to see him picked in the second half of the first round and after a guy like Curtis Lazar but I'm not in that category either. Every scout I talked to before the draft, every one, told me they liked Lazar more. In my mock I had Shinkaruk going 16th and he slid even further, all the way to 24th. (I'm still surprised Calgary didn't take him at pick 23). 

Shinkaruk had 49 goals and 91 points two seasons ago, those numbers dropped to 37 goals and 86 points last year. They probably will again this year considering his late start in the WHL as he's still in Vancouver camp. 

Photo: Ward Perrin
I don't want to sound like I'm dumping on Shinkaruk though because he is a good player and a really good kid that I enjoy speaking with when I have had the chances. I just see him a lot more one-dimensional hockey player than most. He can skate well and the offensive touch is obvious but when one scout tells me "he can't check his hat" and another calls him a "Prima donna" then the red flags go up. 

In fairness, Ross MacLean from ISS couldn't possible say enough good things about him so there is that argument as well.  

No question, Hunter Shinkaruk is a top caliber junior player. If he gets a shot at the NHL, how will he do? If and when he is returned to Medicine Hat, how will he react to the demotion? Once back with the Tigers, do they keep him or move him to a contending team for what would be a major package to build for the future? 

For those questions, Hunter Shinkaruk is my One To Watch for Vancouver in 2013-14.    

Up Next: Colorado Avalanche  

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