Comets Tales: Shinkaruk Excited for All-Star Debut
by Don LaibleJan 28, 2016
ince turning pro last season, Hunter Shinkaruk’s first with the Utica Comets, some good things have happened – being selected to this season’s All-Star Classic is one of them.
“Greener called me into his office and told me I was going,” Shinkaruk said, on how he got the word that he was representing the franchise at this year’s festivities. “I was excited.”
Somewhere in-between exiting his coach’s office and the Comets’ locker room, the 21-year-old winger did what would be expected – he called his mom and dad. After he delivered the good news to those back home in Calgary, immediately, plans were in the works for some hometown support at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
“My parents and sister are coming in. They wouldn’t miss it,” Shinkaruk told.
Counted among the 38 first-time AHL All-Stars, and 10 former first-round draft choices, Shinkaruk is psyched to be part of the league’s very special weekend. With just a 57 mile drive from his Utica apartment to the War Memorial Arena on Montgomery Street, Shinkaruk can enjoy an added comfort than most participants.
“I’ll probably head up with my dad,” Hunter explains of his anticipated drive west on the New York State Thruway. “It will be nice and cool, and no long flights.”
For Shinkaruk, who has 31 points (16-15-31), and is the leader of the “big three” stat categories (goals, assists, and points), this season’s Classic will be the first all-star game that he has actually participated.
“I’ve been selected before (all-star teams), but I’ve never actually played in an all-star game before,” said Shinkaruk, who will be one of 13 players suiting up for the North Division.
Prior to hearing the good news of heading to the Classic, Shinkaruk admits to having no set plans for the mid-season break. “Last year, I wasn’t here (Utica). I headed out west (Calgary).”
When asked if he had a favorite memory of watching an NHL all-star game growing up, Shinkaruk immediately shifts his thoughts to the AHL. He tells with a widening smile of happy moments watching AHL all-star matchups on Sportsnet.
“It’s a little weird, for sure,” noted Shinkaruk. “This is something that I dreamed of, and visualized as a kid.”
With this year’s Classic format having four teams represented (Atlantic, North, Central, Pacific), and with a round-robin tournament, Shinkaruk will have new teammates for a night.
Cal O’Reilly, now captain of the Rochester Americans and among the North teammates Shinkaruk will play alongside at the Classic, is one familiar face he is looking forward to seeing. Teammates last season in Utica, Shinkaruk seems anxious to once again relive stories and exchanging passes, bringing back happy times from last season’s Calder Cup run.
Before Monday’s Classic, comes the skills competition. Last year’s Classic weekend in Utica resulted in the East winning the skills 15-11, and the West winning the game 14-12.
Where does Shinkaruk see himself fitting in during the weekend’s first night? The hardest shot isn’t at the top of his list to sign up for.
“I won’t be in the hardest shot,” the second-year pro chuckled. “I’m not going to embarrass myself.”