Wednesday, June 25, 2014
There hasn't been any stopping for Vancouver Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk, a first-round selection in the NHL’s 2013 draft who has even been mentioned in recent trade talks.
Shinkaruk, who was in his fourth season with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, suffered a hip injury when they played host to the Portland Winterhawks on Oct. 23.
Although he had to fight through excruciating pain, he refused to come out of the lineup, in hopes of making Canada's world junior team. At 19 years of age, it was his last year of eligibility.
Shinkaruk finished with five goals and 11 assists in 18 games with the Tigers,
earning himself the opportunity to crack Canada's roster. But it was just too much, as it was apparent his game was affected significantly by the injury. Team Canada released him on Dec. 19 following a 4-2 victory over Finland.
Despite being disappointed after having done everything in his power to make the team, he didn’t have time to dwell on it.
The Tigers announced on Dec. 27 that Shinkaruk would undergo hip surgery to repair a slightly torn labrum and that he was done for the season.
This was the first time Shinkaruk had experienced something like hip surgery, but he was able to find one guy who would support him through the process -- Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack.
While Lack was playing for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves in 2012-13, he was dealing with what was believed to be a groin injury, but what turned out to be a hip flexor problem that required surgery and ended his season.
Dr. Marc Phillipon did Lack’s procedure, and would work on Shinkaruk as well.
“I talked to (Eddie) kind of more leading up to the surgery,” Shinkaruk said. “(I talked to him about) what it was going to feel like and what the time was going to be like after. I haven't talked to him in a little bit, but I talked to him a lot leading up to the surgery.”
The surgery was successful, and then it was time to get back to work. There was no time to waste if he wanted to be ready for training camp in September.
“Rehab was pretty crazy,” Shinkaruk recalled. “From the time I had surgery, the only day I had off was Sunday. I trained hard, and I was in the pool a lot. I was doing things that rehab staff I had working around me told me to do, and it worked out. It's been a lot of hard work, it definitely hasn't been easy at all, but it's been worth it.”
After spending long hours in the gym, he finally was allowed to skate on March 11.
“I try not to focus too much (on worrying about my hip),” he stated. “Obviously, when you (have) hip surgery, there's always that little worry in the back of your mind, but I have the best doctors in the world looking after me and the best rehab people looking after me. I knew that I was going to be OK.
“It was definitely nice when I got back on the ice for the first time and I felt just like I have for the first 19 years of my life. I feel great right now, and I'm very blessed the surgery went well.”
However, he hasn't yet been cleared for contact.
“Doctors haven't really given me too much of a timeline,” Shinkaruk said. “They've just told me to keep working hard and to keep staying focused. I think that when I get down to Vancouver, they’re going to tell me when I can get hit. That's kind of the last timeline that I have left because I've passed everything else.
“I haven't seen a doctor in a little bit so I don't have clearance to get hit yet. I'm sure that if it doesn't come at training camp, it'll come shortly after. I feel great, I feel 100 per cent, and obviously from the medical side the doctors will be able to tell me what I can and can't do. (That being said), I don't think there's anything I can't do.”
Aside from the gym and the rink, the offseason is an opportunity for players to take some time to spend with their families and friends.
But because Shinkaruk has been busy and focused on rehabbing his hip so that he'd ready for the Canucks' training camp, he hasn't been able to do much of that. But there was one event that only happens once a year that he wasn't going to miss.
“I've been training for about six months now,” he explained. “So I figured if I could get away for a week and a little bit, it would be really nice. It was my parents, Roger and Patrisha's, 25th anniversary so they went on a cruise for two weeks but I only joined them for just a week. We were down in Italy and Greece, and it was great. As a hockey player at this level you don't get to travel and
see the world this much anymore so it was a lot of fun that I got to go down there.”
Shinkaruk returned home on June 15. Soon afterward, he was in the middle of trade rumours.
The 2014 NHL draft is scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Florida Panthers have the No. 1 pick and have been open about the fact that they're looking to trade it. Vancouver, which has the No. 6 selection, has said it would like to move up.
Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada reported on Monday that the Canucks have offered the No. 6 pick and Shinkaruk for the Florida's first selection.
“It's something that I guess is part of the game,” Shinkaruk said, with a laugh. “It's the first time my name has ever popped up in any rumour. You know what, it is what it is. You get a lot of tweets about it on Twitter and sometimes you kind of get worried. But you know, at the end of the day, all it is, right now anyways, is a rumour.
“I've really enjoyed being a prospect of the Canucks this far and worked hard to make sure that I'll be a key player in that lineup this coming season. We'll see what happens, but it's part of the game and part of the life that I've chosen to live so I can't really complain.”
Despite having his name in the rumour mill, Shinkaruk remains focused.
“It's completely out of my control,” he said. “It's up to Vancouver and the other team. All I can control is making sure that when I'm in the gym and when I'm on the ice I'm improving my game. That's where my head is at right now, I just want to make sure that I'm ready to go and ready to have a great season in the NHL this coming season.”
Last year, the Canucks made a splash at the draft as they traded goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth-overall pick, which they used to select London Knights forward Bo Horvat. Shinkaruk and Horvat just happen to be good friends.
“I've haven't talked to Bo too much about this new rumour,” Shinkaruk said. “I think it's more something that, at this point, is just a rumour and I'm trying to not spend too much time thinking about it and talking to people about it because I can't really do too much about it.
“If something happens, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
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