Hunter Shinkaruk will have a different view of the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic held Sept. 5 to 9 at Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre.
During its first two years, the Calgary resident watched what was initially called the Canucks Young Stars Tournament on TV. This year, he will be on the ice as a prospect of the Vancouver Canucks.
The Medicine Hat Tigers forward was the Canucks second pick, 24th overall in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft. He would love nothing more than to join the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Cam Fowler, Mikael Backlund and the Canucks’ Chris Tanev,who starred in the tournament and moved on to the NHL.
Since the tournaments inception in 2010, 30 players have advanced to the NHL.
“I want to show the Canucks organization that I can be a really high-level player at that tournament heading into camp,” said Shinkaruk. “It’s an opportunity to show them that they drafted the right kid.”
Shinkaruk, who scored 100 goals and added 119 assists in 193 Western Hockey League games, is taking an approach of showing the Canucks he can earn a roster spot. He wants to be the best player on the ice every shift. The Tigers captain said he’s looking forward to putting on the Canucks jersey for the first time.
Shinkaruk will be joined by fellow Canucks 2013 draft picks, Bo Horvat, who was chosen ninth overall in the first round, Cole Cassels, 85th overall, Jordan Subban, 115th overall and Miles Liberati, chosen 205th overall.
Dave Gagner, director of player development for the Canucks, said what scouts like about the event is that it gives them a chance to see the players in a competitive nature.
“It’s easier to see their skillset when they are in that type of an environment,” said Gagner. “You get to see the hockey sense and the compete level. It’s a good first opportunity for a lot of these guys to make an impression.”
Gagner added the Canucks Young Stars Classic provides exposure for the players, especially if some teams don’t have spots for them. There might be another that does.
“Matt Fraser comes to mind,” said Gagner. “We weren’t able to sign him a couple years ago and Dallas went ahead and signed him because of what he showed at that tournament.”
Competition gets pretty intense in that environment and teams see the character the players have.
“I think in a competitive nature, some guys that maybe don’t excel in skill drills or whatever in practice, can really show what they are made of in games,” he said.
Gagner said the Canucks Young Stars Classic will be entertaining because fans will get exposure to high draft picks. The players are competing for jobs. He always finds it interesting to see if players can find another level when they are challenged.
“I can remember (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins going two years ago,” said Gagner. “You could see right away the special skill that he had. He was drafted first overall, but when they get in that first pro environment it’s really neat to see those kids adjust so quickly. I think for people in attendance, there is going to be a lot of interesting players to see. It’s very much worth coming to see.”
Gagner is excited to see Horvat and Shinkaruk. He is curious to see how close they are to playing for the Canucks. For some players, they come out and adjust right away.
“Bo Horvat has a really mature game already for an 18-year-old,” said Gagner, who played 33 games for the Canucks in 1999, and 946 during a 15-year career. “He understands how to play in all three zones very well. Coaches really like guys like that. They are reliable and you are not afraid to put them on the ice in any situation. He takes pride in his faceoffs, he’s always on the defensive side of the puck. He takes pride in blocking shots. He also has offensive ability too. When a guy has those qualities, I think it’s going to be exciting to see him. There is an outside chance he is going to make the team.”
With Shinkaruk, Gagner said the five-foot-11, 175 pound left winger is deceptively strong. Shinkaruk is known for playing a heavier game and competes hard.
“His skill is very evident. He has good pop in his stride,” said Gagner. “Hunter stands out because of his involvement. He has the puck quite often when he’s out there.”
Other prospects confirmed to play are as follows: Calgary Flames 2013 draft picks Seaon Monaham, sixth overall, Emile Poirier, 22nd overall, Morgan Klimchuk, 28th, as well as Keegan Kanzig, 67th. From the Edmonton Oilers are Darnell Nurse, Marc-Olivier Roy 56th, Jackson Houck, 94th, Kyle Platzer 96th and Ben Betker 158th. San Jose Sharks’ Mirco Mueller will be joined by fellow 2013 pick Gabryel Boudreau, 49th overall. From the Winnipeg Jets, it will be Josh Morissey, 13th overall, Nicolas Petan, 43rd, Eric Comrie, half-brother of retired NHLer Mike Comrie, Jimmy Lodge, 84th and JC Lipon among others. The 2013 draft selections will be joined by other top prospects.
The Canucks Young Stars Classic begins at the SOEC on Sept. 5 with the Battle of Alberta at 4 p.m. The Canucks and Sharks meet up at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, Sept. 6, the Winnipeg Jets meet the Sharks at 4 p.m., then the Canucks and Calgary Flames play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday features the alumni game between the Canucks and Penticton Oldtimers, including members of the local police and fire department at 5 p.m. followed by a meeting with the Edmonton Oilers and Jets at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday Sept.8 will have the Canucks and Oilers playing at 2 p.m. The Sharks and Flames are butting heads at 5:30 p.m. The final game, played in the Okanagan Hockey School Training Centre will be Sept. 9 at noon between the Canucks and Jets.