VANCOUVER – Hunter Shinkaruk made his first game with seasoned NHL pros a memorable one.
The 18-year-old Vancouver rookie scored a goal and helped set up another one, although he did not get an assist, as the Canucks dropped a 3-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks in the first pre-season game for both teams Monday night.
“Obviously, with the goal, it was very exciting,” said Shinkaruk, who was Vancouver’s first choice (24th overall) in this year’s NHL draft. “It was definitely a moment I didn’t forget, and it was a lot of fun.”
Shinkaruk helped the Canucks rally from a 2-1 deficit early in the third period before Tommy Wingels’ goal with 3:53 left in the game lifted the Sharks to victory. The Canucks rookie put in a high shot from a sharp angle as he feigned to pass from near the goal-line but fired the puck over San Jose goaltender Alex Stalock’s back instead.
“I saw a little bit of corner up there,” said Shinkaruk. “It’s not all the time I put it up there. It’s every now and then and, luckily enough, it just worked out.”
Shinkaruk, a Calgary native who has spent the past three seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, is trying to make the Canucks in his first pro season. Because of his age, he must return to Medicine Hat if he does not crack the NHL club’s roster. He’s also a candidate for Canada’s world junior team.
One of Vancouver’s two first-round draft picks this year, he started the game on a line with Burrows and Kesler and looked reasonably comfortable while seeing some power-play time with them.
The Canucks went with six NHL regulars from last season, including Burrows and Ryan Kesler. Frank Corrado, 20, who toiled for Vancouver late in the season after completing his junior campaign, also played. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were among veterans who received the night off.
The Sharks used seven players who finished the season as regulars.
After impressing new coach John Tortorella in on-ice testing just by skating in circles last Thursday, Shinkaruk also got a response out of assistant Mike Sullivan, who handled questions from the media after the game.
“That was a goal-scorer’s goal, off the angle like that, that top shelf, short side,” said Sullivan. “(Shinkaruk) is an easy guy to like. He plays with a lot of moxie. He loves hockey. He’s been a lot of fun to share the first few days with here.”
Wingels and Joe Pavelski both produced a goal and an assist for the Sharks while John McCarthy scored their other goal.
Brendan Gaunce, Vancouver’s top 2012 draft pick (26th overall), had Vancouver’s other goal. Defenceman Henrik Tommernes recorded two assists.
Gaunce created a 1-1 tie at 17:46 of the opening period as he put Dale Weise’s rebound in off a San Jose defenceman’s stick. Shinkaruk factored into the net by charging up the middle to the net and creating a distraction for San Jose goalie Stalock while attempting to deflect the initial shot.
“I thought it was a great play all around,” said Sullivan. “It was a real hard net drive. I thought Weiser, it was a real head’s up play. He’s shooting for that rebound.”
Shinkaruk is one of two 2013 first-round draft choices trying to make the Canucks, along with 18-year-old centre Bo Horvat, who was chosen ninth overall with the pick Vancouver acquired from the New Jersey Devils for goaltender Cory Schneider.
The two prospects, who share the same agent and have become fast friends, were reunited in the second period after playing together in a recent prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C., and during a Canucks summer camp for young players.
Sullivan liked what he saw of Shinkaruk, Horvat and Nicklas Jensen, 20, Vancouver’s top 2011 draft choice (29th overall) when they were put together in the second period.
“I thought when we put that kid line together about halfway through the game, they brought us some energy,” said Sullivan.
Goaltender Eddie Lack, vying for Vancouver’s backup job behind Roberto Luongo after the Schneider trade, also impressed as he stopped 25-of-27 shots in two periods of work. Lack showed no ill effects in his first game since undergoing season-ending hip surgery last November while a member of Vancouver’s former Chicago Wolves farm club in the AHL.
“I was a little bit rusty but, overall, I felt kind of good out there,” said Lack, a 25-year-old Norrtalje, Sweden native, who has spent the past three seasons, including an abbreviated 2012-13 campaign, in the minors.
Sullivan, who followed Tortorella to the Canucks after working alongside him with the New York Rangers, also praised the netminder despite being dissatisfied with some parts of Vancouver’s game, especially in the second period.
“He certainly got a fair amount of work,” said Sullivan. “He got tested, so I thought he played a real solid game.”
Notes: Joe Cannata, who split his first full pro season between Vancouver’s former Chicago Wolves farm club in the AHL and the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL, played the third period in goal for the Canucks. He recorded 13 saves as the Sharks outshot the Canucks 15-2 in the final period and 42-15 overall. … Tortorella watched his club from the rafters at Rogers Arena while Sullivan and fellow new assistant Glen Gulutzan ran Vancouver’s bench. … Sharks coach Todd McLellan viewed the proceedings from his usual spot behind their bench. … Vancouver killed a pair of San Jose two-man advantages. San Jose converted one of seven power plays while the Canucks were blanked on five.