“How do I get to the ice,” Hunter Shinkaruk asked an usher outside the Canucks dressing room at Air Canada Centre.
“Through that door and to the right,” answered Mike, the elderly gentlemen.
As Shinkaruk walked the tunnel opened up to reveal the home of the Maple Leafs, I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas began playing.
“Tonight’s definitely gonna be a good night,” grinned Shinkaruk.
The 22-year-old forward woke up in Utica, New York, this morning to his cell phone ringing. It was Comets head coach Travis Green on the other end and he delivered the news Shinkaruk has been waiting to hear: you’re been called up to the Canucks.
“It was 9 a.m. when he called,” said Shinkaruk, “and he told me my flight was at 11 a.m. It takes an hour to get to the airport in Syracuse, and I still had to pack and get my gear. I still don’t know how I made it.”
He did and when he arrived at the Canucks hotel in Toronto at 1 p.m., Jake Virtanen rushed out of the lobby to greet him. The two hugged before Shinkaruk was even out of the cab; these are exciting times for the youngsters.
Shinkaruk described his day as a whirlwind, yet he somehow managed to get in a 90-minute nap this afternoon. How? He’s not sure, but he did.
He’s not sure if he’s in the line-up either. Shinkaruk, who has never been recalled by the Canucks, will at least take warm-up, that much he knows. And that’s enough for his parents to pick up everything and head to Toronto from Calgary. They caught an early afternoon flight and will be here to see their son take a twirl pre-game.
“It’s funny how quickly this has all happened,” laughed Shinkaruk, two-hours before puck drop Saturday night.
No one is laughing about the call-up, however.
Shinkaruk, who was selected by the Canucks 24th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, has 10 goals and 13 points in 12 games with Utica this season, including a goal in a 6-3 loss in Springfield less than 24 hours ago. Through November 13th, the left-winger’s 10 goals are tied for the AHL lead.
He credits his stellar play with more ice time, more opportunity and more responsibility; Shinkaruk has been a mainstay on the power play and has rewarded the Comets with five power play goals.
If he gets into the line-up Saturday remains to be seen, but at the very least, he’s earned his turn in the spotlight.
That seems to be a familiar story of late for Vancouver’s young guns.