Camp Cuts: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk sent back to junior, Jeremy Welsh reassigned to Utica

Last Friday, it looked like the Canucks had made the final cuts of camp, sending Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill to the AHL and Brendan Gaunce to junior. That left the Canucks with a 23-man roster that included 18-year-olds Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, an exciting proposition for fans looking for an influx of fresh faces and high-end skill.

Then, like 80′s R&B girl group Teen Dream, Mike Gillis got busy and brought in three new players, two via trade and one via the waiver wire. That necessitated further cuts to the roster and both Horvat and Shinkaruk, along with newcomer Jeremy Welsh, were the victims.

Hunter Shinkaruk is the most disappointing cut of the three, as he had excited fans throughout the pre-season with his shifty footwork and sublime release on his wristshot. Injuries and suspensions seemed to open up a spot for Shinkaruk, but he appeared to earn that spot with his play. He scored 2 goals during the pre-season and finished with 3 points in 6 games after scoring 4 points in 3 games at the Young Stars Tournament.

That said, there is a possibility that his goalscoring masked the limitations to his game, limitations that are not uncommon for raw 18-year-olds. Shinkaruk had just 6 shots in his 6 games and half of those shots came in his first game against the Sharks. That means he had just 3 shots on goal in his remaining 5 games. It’s possible that Canucks fans might be less excited about Shinkaruk if one of those shots hadn’t been a weak goal on Henrik Lundqvist, who was uncharacteristically off his game.

Shinkaruk will return for his second season as the captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers, where he’ll be relied upon heavily in all situations. He’s also almost certain to be playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. All told, this may actually be what’s best for Shinkaruk’s development — playing big minutes in junior rather than 10-12 minutes per night in the NHL — but that’s small consolation to fans eager to see the young sniper in a Canucks’ jersey this season.

Bo Horvat didn’t quite stand out as much as Shinkaruk offensively during the pre-season, finishing with 2 assists in 6 games, with only 4 shots on goal, but he stood out in other ways His two-way game is more developed and he seemed to be prepared to handle the pace of the professional game defensively.

His demotion is a little easier to swallow than Shinkaruk’s, however, as Horvat was likely to be the fourth line centre if he was on the opening night roster, with either Mike Santorelli or Brad Richardson slated to skate on the third line. While Shinkaruk has played on the wing as well as at centre, Horvat is a natural centre and would have had limited ice time with the Canucks this season.

While it would have been nice to see him stick with the Canucks and grow into a possible role as the third line centre throughout the season, it was unlikely to happen, particularly once Zac Dalpe was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes, further increasing the logjam at centre.

Horvat may benefit from another year in junior even more than Shinkaruk, as he seemed to really figure things out down the stretch last seasonheading into the playoffs. In his final 61 games, including the playoffs, Horvat scored 41 goals. A full season with the London Knights, who are hosting the Memorial Cup this season, is an excellent opportunity for Horvat to develop his offensive game to a dominant level.

Like Shinkaruk, he’s likely a lock for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.

Finally, there’s Jeremy Welsh, who came over from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Dalpe trade. Welsh was signed by the Hurricanes out of Union College, where he had just scored a career-high 44 points in 40 games. He failed to make the Hurricanes the following year out of training camp, however, and spent the bulk of the season in the AHL.

It looked like Welsh once again disappointed in the pre-season and was set to be demoted once more to the AHL. While Welsh could foreseeably fill a need in the Canucks’ bottom-six in the future, he isn’t a better option as the third or fourth-line centre than Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, or Zac Dalpe. At 25, he’s already close to reaching his ceiling and may not develop into anything more than a fourth-line centre at the NHL level.

Welsh is exempt from waivers for one more year, so he may be an option to get bounced between Utica and Vancouver if he performs well and the Canucks face injury problems on the fourth line.

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5 comments

  1. DanD
    October 1, 2013

    Disappointing to see those young guys go down, especially knowing that once they’re in juniors they won’t come back at all this year. But definitely agree that big minutes in pressure situations (particularly in the world juniors) will be good for Horvat and Shinkaruk.

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  2. Chris the Curmudgeon
    October 1, 2013

    I’m ok with this. These two were impressive enough in showing us a glimpse of the future, but seldom do guys outside the top 5 draft picks make the jump. Three years from now these guys should be 1/3 of our top 6.

    Frankly, I was a little more disappointed in Jensen and Gaunce. While they obviously were not the calibre of prospect right off the hop that Horvat and Shinkaruk are, I expected one or both to seriously challenge for an NHL job, especially Jensen. I mean sure, both are still pretty young, but they were both outplayed by the fresh recruits and didn’t make it hard enough for Tortorella to cut them.

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  3. akidd
    October 1, 2013

    i understand the reasoning but still, the guy who ‘earns’ the spot is the guy who didn’t play one game of training camp. seems a little disingenuous. i’ll be hoping, like other fans, that dalpe is the diamond in the rough and be trying to ignore that he couldn’t win a spot with the (cup-winning) hurricanes. or at least that carolina didn’t value him over the million dollars that vancouver paid for him through welsh.

    still adding youth is a good thing. and maybe shinkaruk would’ve gotten pushed around too much in the nhl. it’s too bad that shinkaruk couldn’t have gotten his 9 nhl games in though cause there’s no retrieving him now.

    personally, i would have sent booth down. i don’t think he would have gotten pick up on waivers and if he had, that might not have been too bad either. at least the canucks would have seen if he could have put a few injury-free games together.

    not exactly stoked with the lineup going into the season. there’s two good lines and two meh lines as it looks now, which means we will probably see a lot of conservative hockey. it looks like gillis has ridden the safe choice right into mediocrity. if he had pulled the trigger on a trade for a real, proven nhl centre this would have been easier to understand.

    we’ll see what happens once the puck drops but right now i’m feeling a little disappointed and underwhelmed.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      October 1, 2013

      Gillis has a Hart Trophy winning centre on his first line and a Selke winner on the second. Neither of these guys would’ve been the ideal choice for 3rd line centre, as Horvat isn’t at the level to hold down that role yet and his development isn’t well served by restricting his minutes at this phase of his career. I agree that the hole Malhotra left behind isn’t going to be filled as well as we might all like, but Horvat was never going to be that guy either. Plus, though he’s going to miss a couple of weeks at the beginning of the season, Schroeder is still in the team’s plans, is far more ready than any of these guys and is on a one-way deal. I’m worried about his faceoffs but he won’t be any worse than Horvat in that department.

      The problem isn’t with sending Booth down. It’s that he’d still cost you over 3.5 million against the cap in the minors and make the same money he would in the NHL. Plus, he’s still a better option than any of the kids at the NHL level anyways. His goal scoring has been suspect but as Moon-Gner would likely point out, he’s so hard to play against that he beats those guys out on that merit alone.

      Some of you are reading this the wrong way. Rushing a guy into the league when he hasn’t blown everyone away is a sign of desperation or an indication of a rebuild. Gillis, as much as I have little faith in him, clearly recognizes that his core still has too much life in it to dismantle as long as the wave of youth still has room to improve in the AHL/junior. Some of you have written this team off as over the hill, but to me, they are in absolute “win now” mode and will be managed as such. After all, trying to ice the best possible team right now is the best chance the team has at a Cup in 2014.

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  4. Adam
    October 1, 2013

    So much for youngsters breaking the line-up this year.

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