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Shinkaruk eager to debut with hometown Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

GLENDALE, AZ -- Monday morning’s moment wasn’t lost on Hunter Shinkaruk.

Nor will it be on Monday night.

Working through the morning skate with the Calgary Flames for the first time, Shinkaruk will swap his practice jersey for more authentic threads when he makes his debut for his hometown club against the Arizona Coyotes.

“It’s very exciting,” said Shinkaruk, who was summoned from Stockton of the American Hockey League alongside fellow forwards Derek Grant, Emile Poirier and defenceman Brett Kulak earlier Monday. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. Putting on this logo for the first time is pretty cool. I’m going to go out and enjoy it. Play the game I can play and have fun with it.”

Nerves?

Jitters?

Excitement?

All of the above.

“There’s going to be a lot of emotions going into it, with putting on this jersey,” said Shinkaruk, who will have parents Roger and Patricia in attendance to mark the game, his second ever in the NHL. “I’ve just got to use those to my advantage and bring the energy. It’s going to be a good night.”

He fondly recalls, as a nine-year-old, as the Flames pushed all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, calling parts of the run “unbelievable.”

He remembers checking out development camps the Flames held following each draft growing up, too.

“I remember me and my dad would watch the camp and see the young guys after they got drafted,” Shinkaruk said. “That was always exciting to watch the draft on TV and then see them at camp. It’s pretty cool. I’ve watched this before with the same team, so it’s really cool.”

So naturally, Monday is a night that’s been years in the making for the 21-year-old.

Coincidentally, it’s been months in the making, too.

The Flames acquired Shinkaruk on Feb. 22 in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks that sent centre Markus Granlund westward. He was assigned to Stockton following the trade, and waited while forwards Kenny Agostino, Garnet Hathaway and Freddie Hamilton took the first turns with the big club.

But now, it’s his turn.

“It takes patience,” said Shinkaruk, who had 21 goals and 39 points in 45 games with Utica before the trade, and five goals and 10 points in 14 games with Stockton before the recall.

“The same thing happened to me this year in Utica. You’re playing well and someone else gets called up, but that’s the business we signed up for. That’s what my dad tells me whenever I call him. I’ve got to keep playing my game and this year I feel like I’ve made a lot of great strides as a pro and now it’s time for me to come in and live up to everything that I want to do.”

Shinkaruk was originally drafted in the first round, 24th overall, in 2013. The pick was two after Calgary selected Poirier at 24, and four before the Flames nabbed Morgan Klimchuk at 28.

The trade from Vancouver’s organization to Calgary brought him one step closer to the dream he’ll reach Monday.

“I’m sure that he’s very excited,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Just talking to him the day of the trade, that’s the first thing he told me. How excited he was to play for the Flames and that he was a Flames fan growing up. For me, that’s important. That’s part of our culture. You can’t always draft geographically, but sometimes you get kids who are really keen to where the jersey of their childhood dreams. It’s a great set-up and we’ll start with one game and see where it takes us.”

Shinkaruk knows where he wants it to take him.

But he’s treating his inaugural spin as just another game.

“Every game that you play is going to matter,” Shinkaruk said. “Obviously it’s very cool that my family is going to be in the stands and in this jersey, but at the end of the day, what matters is how I play. I’ve got to keep that in mind and go about the day like any other day. I’m going to do that to the best of my ability.”

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