CALGARY, AB -- Hunter Shinkaruk is coming home.
The Calgary Flames acquired the left winger in a trade Monday that sent centre Markus Granlund west to the Vancouver Canucks.
Shinkaruk was born in Calgary.
And to say he’s excited to be coming home might be a bit of an understatement.
“It’s unbelievable,” Shinkaruk said. “I’ve grown up in Calgary. My whole family has had season tickets since I can remember. That chance to put on that jersey, that jersey that I watched and looked up to is pretty cool. I’m very excited about it right now.
“It’s been a great day.”
A shocking day, too.
“I didn’t have an idea,” Shinkaruk said. “I’ve never been traded here or in junior. When I got the call I was shaking. I live with (teammate) Jordan Subban here and he came into the room and was shocked with me. It’s a shocking day. For me and my family, it’s a very exciting day and it’s truly humbling that the team I’ve grown up to has traded for me now.”
It’s an understandable reaction, according to the man charged with acquiring Shinkaruk.
“For any young guy, there’s some shock,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “This is the first time he’s ever gone through a trade. There’s a lot of adjusting. Your head is spinning. When he gets the news he was traded…and then when he heard it was Calgary, there’s great excitement. Any time a young guy is able to go to your hometown team…you’ve grown up with it, you’ve skated in the Saddledome, you grew up in this area, you came to games…it’s a great storyline but it’s not why, from an organizational standpoint, it’s not why you do a deal, for a nice story. You do a deal because the player has upside and at some point he can help you.
“Just speaking with him, he’s a real nice young guy. He was excited. He was thrilled. He seemed pretty pumped up.”
The Flames had the opportunity to draft Shinkaruk in 2013.
After selecting Sean Monahan sixth overall, then-general manager Jay Feaster elected to select forward Emile Poirier with the 21st pick. Shinkaruk was drafted three spots later by Vancouver. Calgary also held the 28th pick in the draft, used to select forward Morgan Klimchuk.
It’s a moment that still sits with Shinkaruk.
“There was mixed emotions, for sure,” he said. “I was sitting in the stands and that whole day was full of mixed emotions…like it is for any kid. It would have been a dream on that day but it's happened now. I'm very excited and I can't wipe the smile off my face.”
The homecoming is on pause, though.
The 21-year-old will be bound for Stockton of the American Hockey League.
But that doesn’t dampen the mood one bit to Shinkaruk.
“I'm very excited,” he said. “That's something that's driving me since I started playing hockey -- to play in the NHL -- and that hasn't changed. Now with really knowing that Calgary wanted me as a player let's me know that it's time to kick it into overdrive and try to get up there and try to help Calgary win.
“That's all that matters to me is winning and if I can help them that will be a great thing.”
It might not be a long wait.
At 21 goals with Utica, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, Shinkaruk has already bested the total of 16 from his rookie season last year. Only six other AHL scorers have more. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward is also 19th in points with 39.
“I think every area of my game has done better,” Shinkaruk said. “I think the opportunity that I got this year has really helped. I've been playing in all situations and I've been able to play a lot. I've kind of always been a kid who likes to have pressure on me and wants to be out there a lot and wants to play. That's helped me this year and has allowed me to have success to this day and now it helps me to keep working on my game and keep getting it better.
“I know I can continue to keep being better.”
And, hopefully, bound for Calgary soon.
But that’s a thought Shinkaruk hasn’t been able to fully grasp yet.
“It hasn’t sunk in at all,” he said. “I’m sure it will…if I get any sleep tonight, I’m sure it’ll kind of sink in. Right now I’m just so excited. I’ll probably have a smile on my face, ear-to-ear, all day. It’s been great.”