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Shinkaruk ready to net full-time role with Flames

In his fourth NHL camp, forward Hunter Shinkaruk is pushing for full time gig with Calgary

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Hunter Shinkaruk knows he can get busy watching, or get busy playing. 

He's been caught doing the former before.

In his fourth National Hockey League camp, he's only focused on the latter.

"For me it's just playing my game," said Shinkaruk, in his first September swing with the Calgary Flames after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks last February. "You can get wrapped up too much in watching what other guys are doing. For me, I just want to worry about myself.

"I want to be the best player on the ice in every practice. I want to use my speed in the games. Every time I have the puck I want to create something. If I do that, I feel confident in my ability that I'm not just going to make it but I'm going to make it as a guy who's going to help this team win this year.

That's what I want.

"I want that opportunity. I feel like I'm ready for it."

The opportunity is there.

So too is the competition.

Shinkaruk will battle peers like Emile Poirier, Garnet Hathaway, Matthew Tkachuk, and Linden Vey for the chance to spend time beyond September at Scotiabank Saddledome.

He'll also run opposite the likes of Lauri Korpikoski and Chris Higgins, longtime NHL veterans invited by the Flames on professional try-outs to nab the same opportunity.

"Competition is good and we wanted to have competition here," said Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan, who served as an assistant with the Canucks last season. "We do have spots open.

"For a guy like Hunter, he looks around and says it's time for him to up his game and win a spot. Same with Lauri and [Higgins]. They're here to win a spot. I think the competition is healthy. There's no question it's healthy."

The 21-year-old isn't about to shy away from it.

"There's good players in every NHL camp," Shinkaruk said. "At the end of the day, it's the NHL for a reason. You have to beat out the best players in the world. With those guys … they're great players. I really respect what they've done in their careers. But when I come into camp I'm not looking at them as someone I want to watch. I feel like if I go out and play my game it's going to speak for itself."

It's the answer assistant general manager Craig Conroy is after.

"Personally the way I want him to react, is 'okay, it's a challenge,'" said Conroy, who watched over Shinkaruk in his seven-game audition with the Flames late last season. "This is the NHL and you have to rise up and take a spot. You bring in veteran guys.

"Does it make it harder?

"Do you question it a little bit?

"For sure. No doubt. When you're a guy and you feel there's some spots to be had, you have to think you're going to outcompete everybody. Chris Higgins is thinking the same thing. 'I'm here to take a job.' It's the competition. It's the nature of the NHL, but you've got to have it.

Video: CGY@ANA: Shinkaruk's first of career comes on PP

"I've never seen people just give spots away. 'Here you go, you can have it.' 

"You have to earn it."

Shinkaruk is fine with that.

It falls in line with his plan. 

"It's time for me to show I'm ready," he said.

"Every year in Vancouver it felt like I had a good camp, and I got sent back and last year with making the All-Star team in the AHL and coming up and playing…I know I'm ready. I want to come into this camp and give the management and coaching staff no excuses, no little things to look at and say I need more time. I wanted to get those out completely.

"That was the thing that pushed me every single workout, on and off the ice, this summer.

"I feel I'm ready. I made some big strides in the gym and in my game, too. It's exciting."

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