This year’s draft class is a lot of things to a lot of different people watching over it.
Some will call the 2013 NHL Draft class intriguing. Others will tag it with any and/or all of exciting, thrilling, electrifying or stimulating.
I prefer another adjective – mature.
Having chatted with many of the top eligibles over the course of the 2011-12 season, the first thing that stood out a year ago was how well these then 16-year-olds carried themselves when prodded with questions and put on the spot.
For me, this was especially the case with two in particular – Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads and the Edmonton Oil Kings’ Curtis Lazar.
The first time I had the fortunate opportunity to chat with Lazar came after a game he watched from the press box. I asked for a moment of his time after watching his teammates win. He quickly finished packing up a few dozen sticks after tossing a few bags on a cart – rookie rituals – before joining me for a lengthy conversation ranging from teammates Griffin Reinhart and Henrik Samuelsson to how closely he watches pundits and their rankings.
“I don’t really look at them,” Lazar said last year. “A lot of them are friends, but I just focus on myself. Everyone plays different roles. My role here in Edmonton might be a bit different from someone else in the league or across the CHL. It’s hard to level them up against yourself. I just go out and have fun.”
A mature approach, no doubt – and on that hasn’t changed despite scrutiny on the now Oil Kings assistant captain.
Whether he’s got a great poker face or he just isn’t bothered, MacKinnon carries himself in a similar manner. MacKinnon, who has been the consensus top pick for 2013 long before arriving to the Mooseheads last season, has already shown maturity beyond his 17 years.
It does come with the curse of being expected to go first.
MacKinnon has been front and centre for the last two years; poked and prodded at every turn. His face has graced television screens in high definition for years. His words have made it to print long before lighting up the QMJHL.
Still, he handles it all with the maturity of a National Hockey League veteran.
So does Shinkaruk, who exploded onto the draft scene last season after netting 49 goals in Medicine Hat. His professionalism comes with a bit of schooling from former teammate Emerson Etem, a first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2010.
“I try to copy some of the things he does,” Shinkaruk said last February. “In the room he’s a positive guy and a lot of fun to be around.”
Shinkaruk has adapted this approach in the way he handles himself around the rink. The easy-going teenager is always upbeat without coming off as juvenile in any sense.
He’s found the appropriate balance so much so that the Tigers have made him their captain for the upcoming season.
It’s a sure sign of maturity, no doubt.
One that Shinkaruk shares with Lazar, MacKinnon and many more in the 2013 NHL Draft.