Shinkaruk is forced to be a spectator
The Medicine Hat Tigers advanced to the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs with Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Swift Current Broncos.
And, frustratingly, Hunter Shinkaruk sat at his Calgary home and watched.
But it’s been the story of the 19-yearold’s life since being shut down during the 2014 world juniors to undergo major hip surgery and miss what was sure to be his final season in the WHL.
“I’ve tried to watch as much as possible,” the Vancouver Canucks prospect sighed Monday before preparing for another day of rehabilitation and training. “But it’s tough because you’ve missed a lot, but I’ve still been doing that.
“I was excited to see (Sunday) that they closed out the series. I hope the best for them and hope they can go as far as they can.”
The last time Shinkaruk suited up for his junior team was Dec. 1 at Calgary. Unbeknownst at the time, it was likely his last game as a Tiger, considering the 24th overall pick from the 2013 NHL entry draft seems destined either for the big club this fall or the farm team Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.
The plan heading into the 2013-14 season originally called for him to take his best shot at cracking the Canucks lineup. He was one of the last cuts and returned to the Tigers. He was limited to 18 games and was in pain for a lot of them.
The injury, in actuality, had been a bother for the past two seasons, but a bad fall Oct. 23 against Portland made it worse. Warm-ups were impossible. Running was out of the question.
Shinkaruk was basically just going through the motions until the world juniors — meaning there were no final handshakes or emotional sendoffs for the former Tigers captain.
“I actually never had a chance to go down there,” said Shinkaruk who had surgery Jan. 7, a five-hour procedure by noted hip specialist Marc Philippon.
“My surgery happened right away, so I haven’t had a chance to go down there and say goodbye or anything like that.
“My training now is giving me more time to go down, so hopefully in the next week or so I’ll be able to go down there and see the guys. That’ll be kind of nice.”
On the rehab front, there have been no complaints. Shinkaruk said he’s feeling better than before the surgery and results of his on-ice sessions have been positive — promising when he thinks about trying to crack the Canucks lineup this fall. Helping his cause, also, is the general direction of the current group.
“You’ve seen the way Van’s season has gone this year,” Shinkaruk said. “There have been a lot of tough breaks. Their big players have been out with injuries. But for me, it’s a team where hopefully they’re looking at going with younger players and building from that.… I’ll be a big part of that process.
“Absolutely, when I went into camp (this year), my goal was to make the team. I almost did that. For me now, it’s making sure I’m on the team next year and contributing all year and be one of their go-to guys.”
Medicine Hat Tigers’ Hunter Shinkaruk hopes to challenge for a spot with the Canucks in fall.