Since losing defenseman Chris Pronger to a devastating eye injury back on October 24, 2011, the Flyers defensive corps has been downright dismal and unimpressive for the most part. Jared Abbott and I believe the Flyers will draft a defenseman with the 11th overall pick such as Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Pulock, Nikita Zadorov, or Mirco Mueller. However, we’re just guessing based on organizational need.
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren does have a tendency of taking forwards in the first round and I would not be shocked if the orange and black go after a forward with their first selection. I don’t think it would be the wise choice because the Flyers do have depth up front but you never know given how unpredictable the Flyers have been over the last couple of years.
So who are some names the Flyers may target if they do not make drafting a defenseman their priority? Well, presumably Sean Monahan, Valeri Nicushkin, and Elias Lindholm will all have had their names called before the Flyers select at 11. On Monday, Jared Abbott profiled Val d’Or Foreurs left winger Anthony Mantha who could be an option if the Flyers chose the forward route. Rimouski Oceanic center Frederik Gauthier and Baie-Comeau right winger Valentin Zykov are all options as well. One name that Flyers fans should keep an eye on is Medicine Hat Tigers left winger/center Hunter Shinkaruk.
Shinkaruk has been a dynamic offensive force in his three years thus far in Medicine Hat. The biggest question I had coming into this year about Shinkaruk was how was he going to perform after his line mate from last season, Emerson Etem, returned home to play with the Anaheim Ducks?
Shinkaruk, who took over as team captain this year, did not disappoint registering 37 goals for a total of 86 points in 64 games played. His point totals were down slightly from his 2011-12 campaign where he registered 91 points but one has to take into account that he played two less games this year and he lost a 60 goal scorer from his line. Overall, his dip in production is not a concern for me.
Shinkaruk is an above average skater with good acceleration, and he possesses strong lateral agility which makes him a shifty forward. He has knack for beating defenders off the rush and attacking the offensive zone when he has the puck. I still think he needs to improve his overall skating technique to make it at the next level. Shinkaruk has a lethal wrist shot with one of the quickest releases I have seen in quite some time. It’s a heavy shot that is accurate. He also has a darn good one-timer as well. His vision makes him one of the better playmakers in the WHL but he’s nowhere near the level he needs to be in order to make it the NHL in my opinion. It’s not surprising that Shinkaruk is not an overly physical player, being he’s only 5’11 175 pounds. He will need to bulk up to make it at the pro level.
Defensively Shinakruk is a flat out liability on the ice. He does not read the play well at all and he gets caught looking at the puck too many times, which in turnends up with him losing his man. That will not fly at any level of hockey, let alone the AHL or NHL. Of the few Tiger games I’ve seen this year, Shinkaruk looked disinterested in his own zone lacking any intensity whatsoever. Could this lack of fire in the defensive zone be the reason why Shinkaruk has fallen from a sure fire top 5 pick last year at this time to possibly falling out of the top 10? Shinkaruk spoke to NHL.com recently and he compares himself to the best player in the world. Easy there Hunter. You may want to refine your defensive game before you start comparing yourself to Mr. Crosby.
A more realistic comparison for Shinkaruk is Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner. Both are small in stature and can be dynamic offensively despite being vertically challenged.
In my humble opinion, if I’m Paul Holmgren I’m staying away from Shinkaruk. No, I’m not just saying this because I don’t like Shinkaruk as a player. I’m saying this because the Flyers biggest need, as Flyers fans all know, is on defense. Why draft a winger who is going to be a third liner at best when you have glaring organizational holes on the blue line?
I had the Buffalo Sabres taking Shinkaruk at 8th overall in my initial mock draft. Jared Abbott had Shinkaruk going to his hometown Calgary Flames at 6th overall. Mike Morreale from NHL.com had Shinkaruk going to the Flyers in his mock draft. Somebody is going to fall in love with this kid and select him higher than he should go. If he gets past Calgary at 6th overall, I believe the Sabres at 8th overall and Dallas at 10th overall are the best bets to land Shinkaruk. Watch out for Dallas. New GM Jim Nill played three years with Medicine Hat in the 70’s. Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins, who is a candidate for the coaching vacancy in Dallas, coached Medicine Hat from 2002-10. If Desjardins gets hired in Dallas, Shinkaruk very well could be taking his game from southeastern Alberta to North Texas.