VANCOUVER – Hunter Shinkaruk has added another unforgettable moment to his summer to remember.
The Vancouver Canucks announced Tuesday that they have signed Shinkaruk, who was selected in the first round (24th overall) in this year’s NHL entry draft.
“It’s a huge honour,” said Shinkaruk. “This summer has been full of pretty exciting things that I dreamed of. The fact that I signed with an NHL team today seems surreal.”
Shinkaruk, an 18-year-old Calgary native, signed a three-year deal. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
The Canucks also signed their other 2013 first-round draft pick, Bo Horvat, an 18-year-old Rodney, Ont., native, who was selected ninth overall after Vancouver traded goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the pick.
In addition to being drafted in the first round and signing with the Canucks, Shinkaruk’s memorable summer has include a chance to try out for Canada’s world junior team and informal skates with such NHL stars as Sidney Crosby and Jason Spezza in Halifax.
Now, Shinkaruk is in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a summer evaluation camp and international competition with other hopefuls seeking spots on the Canadian team that will compete at the world junior championships in Malmo, Sweden during the Christmas holidays.
But, even if he has to miss the tourney, he has his heart set on playing for the Canucks.
“That’s absolutely my goal,” said Shinkaruk. “I’ve done everything so far this summer that I can to try to solidify my spot on that roster. Obviously, it’s not going to be an easy job. They obviously have a lot of great players.”
The 5-10, 181-pound centre will receive serious consideration from new Canucks coach John Tortorella and general manager Mike Gillis because the Canucks potentially have openings at centre on their third and fourth lines, depending how Jordan Schroeder recovers from off-season shoulder surgery and might fit into the forward rotation.
Tortorella and Gillis have stressed that they will attempt to give young players jobs as the club deals with a league-wide reduction in salary cap from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.
Shinkaruk captained the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers in 2012-13, recording 49 goals and 37 assists. He led the Tigers in playoff scoring with three goals and three assists.
Internationally, Shinkaruk was a member of the Canadian team that won a bronze medal at the 2012 under-18 world championships. He earned gold with Canada’s entry at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
He has already had a chance to familiarize himself with the Canucks by attending their summer prospects camp.
“I think it just got me a little bit more comfortable with everyone who’s there, basically everyone who’s involved with the team now,” he said. “I’ve really got that all out of the way.
“So when I come to camp, really, it’s just going to be (about) how well I play. Now, I have all the gear and everything, so I’m comfortable with all that stuff. It was great to get down and see the city and meet everyone. I’m so excited to be a Canuck. It’s a great place. I think it’s just going to allow me to be a little bit more relaxed when I get to camp.”
Shinkaruk has two sets of cousins in Vancouver, and he knows the city well from having played for a New Westminster, B.C., select team for about three springs. He will familiarize himself further with the Canucks organization while playing for Vancouver’s prospects team in a pre-season tournament in Penticton, B.C., in early September.
The tournament will include Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks prospects.
“It’ll be the first time that I put on the Vancouver Canucks jersey and play in it, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Hopefully, I can make my mark in that tournament on what kind of player I am.”
Shinkaruk, who loves to score goals and bills himself as a good skater who is creative with the puck, has battled perceptions about his size throughout his life. Always among smaller players as a youth, he has grown to 5-10 from 5-7 over the past three years, and now feels he has the size necessary to compete in the NHL.
“When I was younger, I was really small,” said Shinkaruk, who has played three seasons for Medicine Hat. “And, even my first year and my second year (of junior), but I’ve grown a lot since then. I feel like it’s more a perception than it is a reality now. I don’t feel like it’s something that will ever hold me back. It’s something I’ve had to deal with my whole life.”
Meanwhile, Horvat’s signing adds more intrigue to the saga involving Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. GM Gillis came under fire after he traded Schneider, changing his original plan to trade Luongo, and received the pick that landed Horvat.
Horvat, London’s captain, recorded 33 goals and 28 assists in the regular season. He led the league in post-season scoring with 16 goals and seven assists and was named most valuable player in the playoffs as the Knights won the OHL title and advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament.
Horvat is also a candidate for Canada’s world junior team. The six-foot, 206-pound centre has already represented Canada at the 2012 under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and captained Team Ontario at the 2012 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Meanwhile, the Canucks also announced that they have signed left-winger Darren Archibald.
The 23-year-old Newmarket, Ont., native split last season between the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. In Chicago, he produced 12 goals and 10 assists and 47 penalty minutes in 55 games played.
He also recorded six goals, seven assists and 29 penalty minutes in 18 games with Kalamazoo.