VANCOUVER – Hunter Shinkaruk earned a chance to stay in the NHL for at least a little while longer Thursday night.
The 18-year-old rookie scored a goal, his second of the pre-season, as the Vancouver Canucks blanked the New York Rangers 5-0 at Rogers Arena. He stayed with the Canucks after coach John Tortorella sent three other players packing to the minors and back to junior after the game.
“With that shot, it just kind of found the net,” he said. “I was really fortunate.”
Shinkaruk, a Calgary native who was one of Vancouver’s two first-round draft choices (24th overall) this year, put in a shot off Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi in with 44 seconds left in the second period to close out the scoring.
“I’m just kind of excited every day I wake up,” said Shinkaruk. “I’m just trying to do my best when I come to the rink—and hope my name is hanging still in my stall. So far, it’s been good, but I can’t take anything for granted.”
Shinkaruk finished the pre-season with three points after also earning an assist in another game. Although he has been used as a bottom-six forward, he hopes the pre-season production will bolster his chance to stay in the NHL permanently.
“I’m definitely a guy who’s been relied upon to shoot a lot and score goals in junior,” said Shinkaruk. “Obviously, it’s a bit different coming in here with the high-end guys that (are) on this team. My role has changed a little bit, but that’s still my role—to try to create a little bit of offence as much as I can.”
Due to his age, he must go back to his Medicine Hat Tigers junior squad in the WHL if he does not last more than nine regular-season games with the Canucks. If he plays a 10th game, his entry-level NHL contract will kick in.
But with winger Zack Kassian suspended for the first five games of the regular season and Jordan Schroeder nursing a fractured foot that is expected to keep him out three weeks, new coach John Tortorella has elected to keep Shinkaruk around—for now—as the regular season approaches.
“He’s played well, scored another goal,” said Tortorella. “He scores two goals that are kind of funky goals, but they’re goals. He’s had a good camp. The suspension with Kass opens up another spot there. I’m not sure what the lineup’s going to be. But he’s certainly made a case as he played.”
Henrik Sedin scored two goals as the Vancouver Canucks finished the pre-season 2-4-0. The goals, his first of the pre-season, came as he and twin brother Daniel celebrated their 33rd birthday.
The Rangers saw their pre-season record fall to 1-4-0 with one game still to play Friday in Las Vegas against the Los Angeles Kings.
Frank Corrado and Ryan Kesler also scored for the Canucks. Alex Edler supplied three assists. But Corrado’s offence didn’t help him because the 20-year-old defenceman from Toronto was sent down to Utica of the AHL after the game.
“Frankie had a goal and assist, and we just sent him to Utica,” said Tortorella. “I thought he started off (training camp) really well and, the middle part, it looked like he just lost a little bit of the confidence. But he has to go play. We’re not going to keep a young guy here to be a sixth guy or a seventh guy who’s playing eight or nine minutes. He can go down there and play 25, 30 and, hopefully, maybe revisit where he’s at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and see where we go.”
Zach Hamill, a 25-year-old journeyman from Vancouver, was returned to Utica after being recalled briefly in wake of suspensions and injuries. Brendan Gaunce, 19, Vancouver’s top 2012 draft pick, was returned to the Belleville Bulls of the OHL. Tortorella said he wants Gaunce, who scored two goals in five pre-season games but did not play Thursday, to pick up his pace of play.
New York’s Alain Vigneault and Vancouver’s Tortorella coached against their former teams for the first time. They were replaced with each other after being fired following last spring’s playoffs.
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo picked up his second win of the pre-season. He recorded 41 saves for his first shutout as the Rangers outshot the Canucks 41-20.
Luongo was glad to be tested early and hopes the effort will help him get off to a good start in the regular season.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Luongo. “We want to keep building on that.
“That being said, it doesn’t really translate automatically to a good start. I’ve had some good pre-seasons before, and sometimes it didn’t translate.”
Rangers starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took the loss as he stopped 12-of-17 shots in two periods of work. Vigneault decided to pull Lundqvist early due to poor play and the possibility he might go with him Friday in against the Kings.
Backup Martin Biron stopped just three shots in a scoreless third period.
Notes: The Rangers signed holdout centre Derek Stepan, their top scorer last season, to a new US$6.15-million, two-year contract. Stepan had 18 goals and 26 assists last season. … Canucks winger David Booth played his first game since suffering an ankle injury last March. Booth was scheduled to return Saturday in Edmonton, but he hurt his groin during the morning skate. He hit the post on a two-on-one with Biron beaten in the third period, and also saw extensive penalty-killing duty for the first time as a Canuck. … Shinkaruk and fellow 2013 first-rounder Bo Horvat were the only Canucks who played all six of their club’s exhibition contests. Horvat also remained with the Canucks following the cuts.