TORONTO -- While Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk will enter the 2013 NHL Draft with an open mind, he admits it's only natural for him to want to hear his name announced as early as possible.
"I'm not really out to set a number where I think I'm going to go, but obviously I want to go as high as possible in the first round," Shinkaruk told NHL.com. "I feel like I've had three good years in Medicine Hat, and the scouts have seen me and know what I'm all about. I'd like to go in the No. 6-to-15 range at the draft, but a lot of things change on draft day. Either way, it'll be an exciting day for me and my family."
Shinkaruk, No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for this year's draft, had 37 goals -- 14 on the power play -- and 86 points in 64 games with Medicine Hat this season. He's the only forward from the Western Hockey League to rank among the top 10 players on Central Scouting's list.
"He got smarter this year and is more deceptive," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He knew when to get into a crowd and how to get out of it, how to get away from traffic and get open."
He missed four games earlier this season after sustaining a skate cut during a Nov. 17 game that required 14 stitches.
"I was playing my best hockey of the year and then got my leg sliced open, but injuries are part of the game," Shinkaruk said. "I got mentally stronger. I know it's about dealing with the experiences. I want to be the best player in the world -- that's my goal. Maybe I didn't put up the numbers people wanted, but at the end of the day I'm a much better player this year than I was last year, and that's all that matters to me."
Shinkaruk is viewing the NHL Scouting Combine as an opportunity to show scouts and general managers that he will never quit or relent in the face of adversity.
"I practiced the VO2 and Wingate bike tests three days before I came to the Combine," he said. "They weren't as hard as I thought. They are definitely difficult, but the main thing is to just push myself on every test and really show the people watching just how competitive I am."
Shinkaruk served as team captain this season, and said at 5-foot-10.25 and 181 pounds, the most common question asked of him by scouts during team meetings has been how he compensates for his lack of size on the ice.
"I'm not the biggest guy, there's no secret to that, but I have a lot of confidence in my game and there are a lot of good players in the NHL smaller than me who have answered that question for me," he said. "I've never felt like I'm a smaller player. I compete hard and I'm going to be as strong as I can be in my frame. Size is something I can't control, but what I can control is being the best player I can be. Just be the best I can with what I'm given."