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Sample fuels Shinkaruk's hunger

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

A drop didn’t quench.

Didn’t douse.

Nor satisfy.

Calgary Flames prospect Hunter Shinkaruk is still very much hungry after the first eight games of his NHL career.

“When you get a taste of the hockey up there playing in Calgary, it’s unbelievable,” said the 21-year-old local kid, who fulfilled a lifelong dream by suiting up for his home side for seven of his eight skates in his first sampling of the NHL life.

“Getting that taste right before the summer was great. It leaves a fire in my stomach. Everything I do when I wake up, even though it’s summer, that’s my job and that’s my goal to make that team. That’s the only thing I’m going to be thinking about all summer. That’s where I want to play. Obviously there’s a lot of great players that I’m going to have to play against and battle out for spots. That’s good, but at the end of the day that’s where I want to be. It’s up to me to do everything I can from here until camp to make sure that that happens.”

Shinkaruk’s script wrote itself.

After a pair of standout seasons with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, Shinkaruk was a highly touted prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft -- the same draft that saw the Flames own three of the first 30 picks.

But Shinkaruk was drafted 24th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, two after Calgary selected Emile Poirier at 22, and four before the Flames nabbed Morgan Klimchuk at 28.

Nearly three years later, he unexpectedly joined the team he grew up rooting for, in a surprise swap in the days leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline.

“It’s been pretty crazy. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for sure,” Shinkaruk said. “The day of getting traded to Calgary was crazy. Going up to Calgary, playing in Calgary, it’s been pretty crazy. There’s been a lot of emotions. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster and I’m sure at times this summer it’ll be pretty cool … that’s your childhood dream.

“I’m just blessed I get this opportunity. It’s up to me to make the most of it and make sure that I stay here for a long time.”

He played 14 games with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League before earning a late-season audition with the Flames.

His first game?

His first NHL point.

His second game?

His first NHL goal.

His first game on home ice?

His second NHL goal.

“It was unbelievable,” Shinkaruk said. “We had season tickets, me and my family, for Flames games since I can remember. Getting out there in Calgary ... it was a moment I’m never going to forget, especially scoring a goal in the first game. Our season tickets were always right behind the bench. I went by the bench to hit the guys on the glove and I looked up and saw my parents in those seats. I watched so many games from there.

“It was pretty surreal.”

But not the least bit filling.

The sampling only fueled Shinkaruk’s hunger.

“At the end of the day I had some success there (but) I haven’t done what I’ve dreamt about doing yet. It’s about every single day getting better. When I was 10 years old, it wasn’t just my dream to play six games. I want to have a career there. I have to keep that in mind.

“It’s the best league in the world for a reason. You learn that it’s not easy to stay up there, and it’s not easy to have success there. If you want to make it and make a living there there’s just things there you have to do. Every decision to make on and off the ice has to be guided towards having a good career there. You watch some of the guys on that team and you see how they carry themselves.

“It’s good for me to learn that. It’s good for me to see that. It’s a great opportunity to finish the year there. Now it’s up to me to have a good summer and try to stay there next year.”

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