Hunter Shinkaruk once said he actually liked the media side of hockey.
He was asked on Monday if that was still the case, in light of all the speculation that the Vancouver Canucks were reportedly shopping him as part of a package to the Florida Panthers for the first overall pick in last month’s draft.
“I still like it,” said Shinkaruk, Vancouver’s 24th overall selection in the 2013 draft, at UBC.
“I guess, Twitter, you look at your tweets and there’s a ton of them with all the trade talk. So that was something I guess I’ve gotten out of the way now. I know how to handle that. This is the fun part of hockey. Ever since I was young I dreamed about doing this kind of stuff, so no complaining for sure.”
After impressing at training camp and during the pre-season last September, Shinkaruk’s 2013-14 season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL was ended by a hip injury that required surgery, which he underwent in January.
Known for his skating ability and skill, Shinkaruk said the hip is now 100 per cent.
“I feel really good about it. It’s not something that’s in the back of my mind now,” he said.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning denied reports he was using Shinkaruk as a piece in a potential trade with Florida at the draft.
He called it “all speculation.”
“I don’t know where that came from. We were never actively looking to trade Hunter Shinkaruk. This stuff gets started out there,” said Benning.
“That’s not true.”
He also said head coach Willie Desjardins spoke with Shinkaruk during the club’s weekend trip to Whistler. There’s history there between the two.
Desjardins, as general manager and coach of Medicine Hat’s WHL team, drafted Shinkaruk as a bantam player. The two have remained in communication since then, even when Desjardins left for the Dallas Stars and eventually their AHL affiliate Texas Stars.
“He (Shinkaruk) is fine with that. It’s part of the business. This speculation starts and it’s like a big snowball rolling down the hill, it just gets bigger and bigger,” said Benning.
THERE’S NO RUSHING BO
Bo Horvat’s name was brought up plenty with GM Jim Benning on Monday.
The Canucks selected Horvat with the ninth overall pick in 2013, after trading goalie Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the selection.
While Benning said if a young player plays well and can contribute to the team, room will be made on the roster, he also made it clear those young players who are not believed to be fully developed will not be forced into a situation that might hinder them in the longer term.
Benning spoke highly of Horvat’s accomplishments in junior, including playing at the Memorial Cup — although he failed to register a point for the London Knights in this year’s national championship – and for Team Canada in the World Juniors.
“It’s a big step from junior hockey right to the NHL,” said Benning.
“He’s an important guy for us going forward. I think he could turn out to be a match-up guy because he’s physically strong, he wins his battles, he’s good on faceoffs, he blocks shots. He can be a shutdown guy where he shuts down the other team’s best players but we don’t want to rush him.
“We want to make sure that he’s developed properly so that there’s a foundation there, so when he comes up and plays that he’s ready to handle the load.”
CANUCKS MAKE MOVES IN FRONT OFFICE, COACHING STAFF
The Canucks announced one hiring and then another on Monday.
First, the club made it official that John Weisbrod was named vice-president of player personnel after spending the last three years with the Calgary Flames organization.
A few hours later, the Canucks officially named Doug Lidster to the coaching staff.
A former defenceman with the Canucks from 1983 to 1993, Lidster was also part of the New York Rangers club that defeated Vancouver in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
Prior to joining the Canucks, the 52-year-old Lidster was an assistant coach with the AHL Texas Stars, beginning in 2012. He coached alongside Willie Desjardins, now the bench boss in Vancouver, in Texas, where the pair won a Calder Cup championship this past spring.