Shinkaruk is forced to be a spec­ta­tor

The Province - - Hockey - KRIS­TEN ODLAND POSTMEDIA NEWS

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.”

NICK PROCAYLO/PNG FILES

Medicine Hat Tigers’ Hunter Shinkaruk hopes to chal­lenge for a spot with the Canucks in fall.

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