Call it A Tale of Two Orcas.
Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat will always be linked, long from now and no matter where their careers take them, as the Vancouver Canucks’ two first-round picks in last year’s Entry Draft. Horvat will also be linked with Cory Schneider, who Vancouver traded away for the ninth overall pick, which was used on Bo. And Shinkaruk may just always be linked with the Calgary Flames, his hometown NHL club that passed him over twice before the Canucks took with in the 20s.
But they were still linked to each other on Friday, too – the hurt Horvat remains in Vancouver with a battered shoulder, while the slightly older and (it would seem) more offensively dynamic Shinkaruk has been sent down to the farm, to Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica, New York.
“I think that it’s a young guy and he’s got to get more of an all-around game to come up here,” said Vancouver’s head coach Willie Desjardins. “I thought he was good offensively. I thought there were times that he showed really well. And that’s what we want out of him.
“We want (him) to be a guy who loves to score, who’s quick on the attack – and I think he showed us those things.”
Shinkaruk, who played his WHL hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers, scored two goals and added two assists in his 2014 preseason stint, which was his first slice of competitive hockey since he underwent surgery for a torn labrum last winter.
The injury left him on the sidelines for the second half of his final season in the ‘Dub, and most likely cost him a spot on Canada’s under-20 World Junior team. (Shinkaruk was one of the camp’s final cuts, but he struggled to find the net with the Tigers last season and later admitted to playing through the injury for the first half of the year.)
Now 20, Shinkaruk is eligible for AHL duty. And his role on the Canucks, if he would have made the big club for Game 1 of the regular season, would most likely have been a marginalized one at best. A couple shifts here, a couple there, most of them spent on the third line or lower.
“But I think he needs more experience at the pro level,” said Desjardins. “He sat out last year for quite a bit of the year, so he’s been out a while. So to get his game to the best it can be, he needs a little bit more time.”
Horvat is still in Vancouver, but he’s done for the preseason.
The two-way forward was hit hard in Thursday night’s exhibition against the Edmonton Oilers, knocked off the puck and to the ice by Tyler Pitlick. It was a clean hit, but a pounding one.
Horvat is also ineligible for the AHL – being only 19 – so the thinking is, Vancouver doesn’t want to send the kid down for another year with the OHL’s London Knights. He’d most likely have another great year – and would play again with longtime running mate Max Domi, who was sent back to London from the Phoenix Coyotes – but he wouldn’t learn anything know. Or so the logic goes.
But he likely won’t suit up for the Canucks on opening night.
“It’s good news,” said Desjardins, after learning Horvat’s shoulder wasn’t broken or “seriously” injured (TSN). “We were worried for sure, I thought it could be worse than that, but I think it’s just a contusion… But it’s big that it’s not broken. It’ll be a couple days for sure and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little longer. It seems pretty sure.”
The Canucks play the Oilers again on Saturday night to close out their preseason.
They open up the regular season next week on Oct. 8 against the Calgary Flames at Alberta’s Scotiabank Saddledome.