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.Tags: Bo Horvat, camp cuts, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jeremy Welsh, Prospects