What to make of Hunter Shinkaruk, the captain of Medicine Hat in the WHL and a prolific scorer for three years now in the WHL?
The left winger has overcome questions about his size at the junior level -- and in a league that is traditionally seen as Canada's most physical major junior circuit -- but concerns persist to the point he could land in the top 10 of the 2013 NHL Draft, or he could easily land late in the second 10.
As you'll see from some of the quotes below, his offensive skill is undeniable but some question his ability to translate to the NHL both because of his frame and because of the whole two-way "200-foot game" aspect required in the world's top league.
"He's a positive person, has a great work ethic and is constantly working at ways to improve his game," Medicine Hat's GM Shaun Clouston told The Hockey News for its Dec. 17, 2012 profile. That write-up also spoke of Shinkaruk successfully taking on more tough defensive matchups this season, but not all observers are convinced.
23: The Hockey News
10: Hockey Prospectus (Pronman)
6 (NA skaters): Central Scouting
What they're saying...
(Note: Since we're just aggregating content here, these are samples of each outlet's opinions. Click through for their full report in each case.)
Scott Reynolds of Copper & Blue on Shinkaruk's comparables:
Shinkaruk brings more offense than either Schremp or Esposito did when they were drafted, and it's quite possible that a slight regression in offense doesn't actually matter. But given that Shinkaruk's likely outcome if it doesn't matter is good-but-not-great and his likely outcome if it does is something less than that, the uncertainty is going to push him down my list.
Scoring ability is the defining skill that Hunter Shinkaruk brings to the table. Undersized and overmatched physically, Shinkaruk has that rare hockey sense that goal scorers possess with his ability to be in the right place at the right time. ... Shinkaruk’s playmaking ability is not elite, but it’s a strength of his game and something he uses to keep the defense off balance in terms of what he’s going to do. Overall, however, NHL teams will have to question how his 200-foot game translates to the NHL level at his size.
TSN (Craig Button) - A whole lot of things about "determination":
...very determined and competitive offensive player. He has very good skating ability with speed, quickness, change of pace, agility and excellent balance, which allows him to play in traffic and versus bigger players without being nullified. He's hungry to score and will pay the price to score and get to the scoring areas. He has very good hands and can beat goaltenders in a variety of ways and he is able to make those plays quickly and in tight areas.
Hockey Prospectus (Corey Pronman):
Despite being a little on the smaller side, he deserves a top 10 ranking, as he possesses an immense amount of unique offensive talent. He moves effortlessly as a skater, showing the ability to gain power from each stride. That allows him to divert more energy to playmaking. His agility makes him tough to check in open ice. He turns his hips a lot, and his wide skating stance makes it difficult to predict where he will move. That said, his speed only ranks as good, not top end. Shinkaruk has rapid hands, and he can be very dangerous due to his creativity and coordination...
Pronman on mocking the draft:
If Shinkaruk does not go to New Jersey or Dallas, he could slide a tad [to 14 or 15], as NHL sources have been more bearish on him as of late.
THN Draft Preview:
"If you look at Patrick Kane or Sam Gagner [similarly small players], those players brought a certain element and had success. Hunter's skating is his element. He's a highly skilled kid, very explosive skater. His hands are as quick as anyone's in the league."
But also: "He's been allowed to get away with some things," the scout said. "He needs to learn the team game now and how to play away from the puck."
Shinkaruk's "late" (October) birthday allowed him to step in when his size might have otherwise kept a younger player back. So is Shinkaruk another offensive gem who's unfairly knocked because of his smaller frame? Or is there reason to think this kid won't be able to translate his impressive skill into a reliable top-six role in the NHL?
Obviously, it's the next three to five years that will determine that. Unfortunately for NHL GMs, they have to decide by Sunday afternoon.