Hunter Shinkaruk’s season over, doesn’t regret playing through pain in world juniors bid
'I know how bad my hip felt when I was over there but, as a young kid, you want to play in the world juniors and play for your country'
VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk has known since early November that he would need surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip but was determined to fight through it in an attempt to make Canada's world junior team.
In the end, he was among the final three players cut and sent home from Sweden. He will now go ahead with the surgery, scheduled for Jan. 7 in Vail, Colo. The operation will be done by noted hip specialist Marc Philippon.
Shinkaruk, selected 24th overall by the Canucks in last June's entry draft, will be out for four to six months. His WHL season with the Medicine Hat Tigers is over. He was originally hurt in an Oct. 23 game against the Portland Winterhawks.
“When I came to Vancouver to play against the Giants on Nov. 15, I kind of knew the fate of my injury,” Shinkaruk explained in a phone interview Friday. “I couldn't really tell people because, for sure, that probably would have cost me a chance to even get to try out for the world junior team. I knew what was going to have to be done but it was something I just wanted to battle through to try and make the world junior team.”
Shinkaruk, 19, admitted that if he had no shot at the world juniors, he would have had the surgery done in early November.
“I made my decision and I was very comfortable with it,” he said. “I talked to my parents and to my agents and it was important to me to at least try. Looking back, I'm not disappointed at all. I'm very happy that at least I tried. I know how bad my hip felt when I was over there but, as a young kid, you want to play in the world juniors and play for your country. It didn't work out but I wouldn't go back and do anything different.”
After a terrific training camp with the Canucks, Shinkaruk was returned to Medicine Hat where he was in his second year as team captain. His final line for his final WHL season reads: five goals in 18 games. He disputed the notion this has become a lost season for him.
“No, I don't think that's the case,” he responded. “Obviously the start of my year in Vancouver went unbelievable. Other than not making the team, it kind of went as well as I could have hoped for. Then in my sixth game back with the Tigers, I got hurt. Obviously it became very hard on me mentally after that and there were games where my hip was so sore I couldn't even warm up. But I still don't think it's a lost year.
“When I was 15, I broke my leg and missed a whole year of midget. I was able to come back and make the WHL at 16 and become the second leading point-getter as a 16-year-old. So this isn't the first time I've gone through something like this. It's allowed me to mature as a kid.”
According to Canucks GM Mike Gillis, the team has been aware throughout that Shinkaruk was facing surgery.
“We've been involved every step of the way,” Gillis said. “He was diagnosed probably a month and a half ago but he wanted to try and play through it to get on the world junior team. He wanted to postpone things as long as possible.
“We expect, and everyone expects, a complete and full recovery and that he will be right back to normal after a four- to five-month period. We expect him to come back next fall and be ready to compete for a place on our team. We're confident he'll put this behind him.”
On a brighter note, Gillis is tickled pink with the season of centre Bo Horvat, the Canucks' first pick and the ninth overall selection last June. Horvat did make Team Canada and has a starring role on a line with elite prospects Connor McDavid and Sam Reinhart. He's also enjoying an outstanding season with his OHL team, the London Knights, where he has collected 44 points in 28 games and is plus-18.
“Bo is having a great season and, hopefully, that can continue,” commented Gillis. “He plays in every situation, takes every key faceoff and is clearly a player that coaches have a tremendous amount of confidence in on the ice. It's very encouraging.”
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