The season has surpassed the halfway mark and the Heat are locked in a battle for a playoff spot with the rest of the Pacific Division. Still though, some of the guys might be unfamiliar to fans, so we want to continue our Meet the Heat segment and keep putting names to faces for you, the fans.
With the NHL trade deadline looming, teams at the top level are making moves to improve their chances of winning a Stanley Cup or focusing on the future. Those moves can immediately impact their AHL rosters in a multitude of ways.
We saw this happen firsthand when the Calgary Flames acquired Hunter Shinkaruk from the Vancouver Canucks before assigning Shinkaruk to the Stockton Heat. And while Shinkaruk has now played a game in front of the Stockton Arena crowd, we wanted to give all of you a deeper understanding of what makes him such a highly touted prospect.
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Shinkaruk tore apart youth leagues in the area before being drafted 14th overall in the Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Shinkaruk made the short three-hour trip from Calgary to Medicine Hat and quickly became of the top players in the WHL with the Tigers.
After finishing fifth on his team in scoring as a 16-year-old rookie, he put up the best season of his WHL career in 2011-12, scoring 91 points (49 goals, 42 assists) in just 66 games. His 49 goals were good for fifth in the league overall, while his 91 points ranked him 12th in the league at the end of the season.
That very same year, Shinkaruk represented Canada at the World Junior Championships, scoring 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in six games for the U18 squad. Team Canada took home the bronze medal that year with Shinkaruk as their second-leading scorer at forward.
His junior career concluded with him playing in 211 games (all with Medicine Hat) and scoring 235 points (105 goals, 130 assists). He also captained the Tigers during his final two years with the team.
The 5’11”, 180 lb. forward was selected in the first round (24th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks and began his pro career with their AHL affiliate – the Utica Comets – during the 2014-15 season.
Shinkaruk had a solid rookie season last year, registering 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 74 games with the Comets. He also played in all 23 playoff games en route to Utica’s runner-up finish to the Manchester Monarchs (now Ontario Reign) in the Calder Cup Finals.
As a rookie Shinkaruk also displayed his clutch scoring ability, finishing tied for the AHL rookie-lead in game-winning goals with seven.
Now in 2015-16, the newly acquired forward has eclipsed his rookie numbers in just about every major statistical category with 21 goals, 18 assists and 39 points – all scored while he was with Utica before the trade.
Stockton fans will have to wait to see Shinkaruk earn his first point wearing his favorite childhood team’s colors after he was held without a point in his debut, but he was less than a day removed from a cross-country travel day and an emotional trade. There is little doubt that he’ll be putting pucks into the net for the Stockton Heat before too long.
Shinkaruk is an easy kid to root for – big, genuine smile off the ice and a fierce competitor with quick feet and a scoring touch on the ice. And really who doesn’t love the story of a hometown kid realizing his boyhood dream of lacing up his skates for the Calgary Flames?
Get your tickets and watch Hunter Shinkaruk while you can Heat fans because he has ‘NHL’ written all over him and we can’t wait to see the heights he’ll reach.
Read the other Meet the Heat’s:
Jon Gillies – Goaltender
Hunter Smith – Forward
Bill Arnold – Forward
Brett Kulak – Defenseman
Morgan Klimchuk – Forward
Kenny Agostino – Forward
Oliver Kylington – Defenseman
Austin Carroll – Forward
Ryan Lomberg – Forward
Colton Orr – Forward
Tyler Wotherspoon – Defenseman
Jakub Nakladal – Defenseman
Markus Granlund – Forward
Aaron Johnson – Defenseman
Garnet Hathaway – Forward
Dustin Stevenson – Defenseman
Kent Simpson – Goaltender
Drew Shore – Forward
Joni Ortio – Goaltender
Freddie Hamilton – Forward
Bryce Van Brabant – Forward
Turner Elson – Forward
Mason Raymond – Forward