Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk thinks outside of the box to better his hockey career.
Heading into his third season with the Tigers, the 18-year-old made a PowerPoint to breakdown what he wanted to accomplish.
“I made the PowerPoint at the start of the year to look at my goals and what I wanted to improve on this year,” said Shinkaruk. “It helped me visualize what I needed to work on and what I wanted to focus on. It helped with everything in front of me what I wanted to work towards.”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder’s season ended up having its ups and downs. He did tally an impressive 37 goals and 86 points in 64 games, but was unable to raise his game, stats wise anyways, from his previous 91-point season largely because of nagging injuries.
“It seemed as soon as I started going on a roll, I’d have to deal with an injury,” he said. “I would have liked to have done more, but the circumstances made it hard to.”
Shinkaruk taking on a bigger role with Medicine Hat was a challenge he had to face this year. Last season he was in a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch with Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Emerson Etem. This year he had more offensive pressure on his shoulders with Etem gone to the pros and played a bigger role in the dressing room as he was named the team’s captain.
“I definitely had to get used to playing without Etem on my line,” said Shinkaruk. “He’s such a great player and he really makes it easier on his linemates by opening up space. But a lot of the guys stepped up for us this year… I really liked being captain. I like helping out the rookies and just being a leader young players can look to.”
Shinkaruk’s PowerPoint wasn’t the first time he looked to unorthodox ways to accomplish his goals. In his sophomore season with the Tigers, he wrote the number 50 down everywhere he could think of to motivate himself to notch that many goals as a 17-year-old.
“I always wrote down the number 50 and would stare at it for a couple minute to just motivate me to score 50 goals,” said Shinakruk. “I got that idea from a book called The Secret. It’s a book about trying to stay positive. I think it’s really important to keep a positive mindset.”
Unfortunately for Shinkaruk, he came up one-goal short with 49 on the year. He did make an unbelievable last minute effort to reach his goal, though. In the Tigers’ last game of the season against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, he scored a hat trick and almost potted another on an empty net in the final minute of the contest.
“It was tough to come that close and just be one-goal short,” he said. “But I bounced back and stayed positive. I didn’t let it get me down.”
Next year, the Calgary Alta., native’s goal is to stick in the National Hockey League.
“I definitely want to be in the NHL,” said Shinkaruk, who is ranked sixth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service. “I’ve worked hard and will continue to work hard to prepare myself for that step. That’s where I want to be.”
1. Who is your favourite NHL team and why?
“I’m a Dallas Stars fan. I’m not sure why, I think it’s because I looked up to Mike Modano when he was playing for them.”
2. Who do you try to model your game after?
“I love Sidney Crosby’s work ethic. He works hard and is a great role model. I look up to him. I think I play a bit like (Carolina Hurricanes forward) Jeff Skinner. He works hard and scores a lot. He’s just a great all-around player.”
3. How would you describe yourself as a player?
“I feel I’m a leader that tries to make everyone around me better. I’m obviously a goal scorer, but I play strong defence, too. I also have a strong work ethic and am always trying to improve all aspects of my game.”
4. Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey and Regina Pats centre Morgan Klimchuk are also Calgary natives and are poised to be high picks this year. Did you grow up with them when you were living in Calgary?
“I played against Klimchuk in my second year of bantam in Calgary. I don’t know him too well, though. I’m good friends with Morrissey. We grew up not that far apart from each other and became good friends. It’s really cool to see us all have good years this year and get some draft attention.”
5. Your dad, Roger Shinkaruk, is the Calgary Hitmen’s dentist. Did getting an inside look at the WHL at a young age inspire you to make it to that level?
“I have been fortunate to see firsthand what it takes to get to that level. I remember watching (Anaheim Ducks star centre) Ryan Getzlaf when he played for them. I saw how hard he works and how dedicated he was. It definitely helped me to see how much work it takes to get there. It also inspired me to play at this level."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen