One would think nothing but anonymity follows playing in the shadow of 50-goal scorer Emerson Etem.
That isn’t the case for Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk is a name that already reaches all corners of the hockey world, despite not being eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until 2013. The prolific forward, taken 14th overall in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, is currently projected to be a first round draft pick in the 2013 draft. In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Calgary, AB. product goes in the top-5, where he is currently ranked by Future Considerations.
His first year in the WHL saw him tally 42 points in 63 games last season, good for 10th amongst rookies. This year, Shinkaruk has elevated his play substantially and has become a star on a Tigers team ranked third in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Although currently injured, he has 73 points in 56 games this season including 40 goals – totals that place him among the league’s elite.
Shinkaruk’s true emergence this season started in the gym last summer.
“I was in the gym this summer, I got a lot stronger,” Shinkaruk said. “Coming into this season I wanted to be a key player.”
It’s exactly what Shinkaruk has become. Many, including Shinkaruk himself, credit the influence Etem has had on the 17-year-old. Etem, one of the main reasons for Medicine Hat’s imminent return to the playoffs, and one of Shinkaruk’s constant linemates throughout this season.
“I try to copy some of the things he does,” Shinkaruk said. “His game is NHL ready. You see him in the gym working out a lot and after practice taking shots and just always getting better. In the room he’s a positive guy and a lot of fun to be around.”
Whether or not Etem is willing to take at least partial credit for Shinkaruk’s explosion, the Anaheim Ducks prospects has definitely noticed a sharp trajectory in his teammate’s development.
“Night and day this year compared to last year, nothing but improving and going uphill,” Etem said. “He’s relentless on the puck and is battling in the corners more and more. You can see the strength coming along. It’s his work ethic and what he does in practice.”
The work ethic is magnified by gifted talents, too.
“He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever seen,” Etem added. “He has the Jeff Skinner-type shuffle when he skates. He excites a lot of people and has Skinner’s scoring touch.”
That skill has Shinkaruk pegged as an elite prospect for 2013, a position that is his to lose. Being perhaps the best WHL forward eligible for next year’s draft, these possibilities and plenty more lie ahead for Hunter Shinkaruk.