The Medicine Hat Tigers were dealt a huge blow when superstar forward Hunter Shinkaruk announced over the holiday break that he is done for the season. The 19-year-old speedster injured a hip in late October and over the next two months developed a blister that caused a tear in his labrum. The first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, 24th overall, was among the 25 players invited to Team Canada’s selection camp for the world junior tournament, but he was released on Dec. 20 and immediately announced that he will be having surgery on Jan. 7 in Vail, Colo. In 211 games with the Tigers, Shinkaruk had 105 goals and 130 assists…The city of Cranbrook honoured one of its own on the weekend when Scott Niedermayer was given a plaque from the city and the hall of fame defenceman then dropped the puck during a ceremonial face-off prior to a game between the Kootenay Ice and Spokane Chiefs. Niedermayer grew up in Cranbrook, but played junior hockey in Kamloops before going on to an 18-year NHL career that saw him win four Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, a world championship, Conn Smythe Award and Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman. Niedermayer, who is now an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks, was home with his family for the holidays to spend the festive season in the snow.
Here’s a little summary of players who have ties to Prince Albert: former Raider forward Austin Daae is now the leading scorer in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League after the 20-year-old scored twice and set up another in the Estevan Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win over the Weyburn Red Wings on Monday. Daae, who spent the better part of last year with the Raiders, now has 23 goals and 19 assists in 34 games…Prince Albert Minto defenceman Lochlan Morrison had a busy Monday as the 16-year-old played in the morning with his regular team at the Mac’s Invitational in Calgary and then dressed for his first WHL game that night as he took several shifts with the Hitmen in their game against Kootenay. A seventh-round pick of the Hitmen in 2012, Morrison became available as an emergency replacement when the Mintos were eliminated from the Mac’s with a 5-3 loss to the Alaska Aces…Raider rookie forward Matteo Gennaro had a great start to the World under-17 Hockey Challenge being played in Cape Breton, NS, as he scored twice and set up one other in a convincing 6-3 Team Pacific win over Team West. Brendan Guhle and Nick McBride, another pair of 16-year-olds playing with the Raiders, are also on Team Pacific…Jordan Harris, who patrols the blueline for the Swift Current Broncos, had a tough return to the line-up on the weekend as he was sent to the dressing room after being knocked down in a fight with Moose Jaw’s Scott Cooke. It was Harris’s first shift after missing eight games with an injury.
How bad are the Lethbridge Hurricanes? Here’s something that kind of drives home the point of why they are last in the entire WHL. On the weekend, in a game against the Medicine Hat Tigers, Lethbridge lost a game where Medicine Hat had two emergency call-ups dressed as their netminders. With Marek Langhammer away playing for the Czech Republic at the world junior tournament in Sweden and Daniel Wapple sidelined with an illness, the Tigers were forced to insert Zac Robidoux from the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Cody Schlosser, an 18-year-old who is playing senior hockey in Eastend, Sask. Medicine Hat won 4-2…Brandon forward Tim McGauley apparently has hockey in his family bloodline. An older brother Tyadg plays professionally in Japan, a sister Kelson has also spent time playing in Japan, another sister Patricia is currently with the women’s team at Yale University, sister Tvera toiled with the Regina Rebels of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, yet another sister Maeve is presently with the Notre Dame Hounds, a brother Ged is playing in Notre Dame and the youngest of the eight children, Colum, is playing bantam hockey with the Prairie Storm. McGauley’s mother is from Japan therein lies the connection of playing the game in that hockey hotbed.
It has been a tough year for players quitting hockey and you can add Erik Benoit and Trace Elson to the growing list. Benoit, who started his career with the Kootenay Ice before being traded to Saskatoon last year as part of the Blades’ attempt to get better for their hosting of the Mastercard Memorial Cup in May, told the Moose Jaw Warriors he won’t be back after the holiday break. Benoit had been traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the offseason and was then claimed off waivers by Moose Jaw when the Warriors were shortstaffed due to injuries, but when everyone returned he was either a fourth-line player or a healthy scratch. Elson just simply left the Vancouver Giants at Christmas to return to the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. One other player who quit before the break, Spenser Jensen of the Medicine Hat Tigers, has apparently had a change of heart and through his agent has requested a trade.
Finally, the trade deadline is fast approaching and it appears the Vancouver Giants are going to be buyers while the Saskatoon Blades are going to be sellers. Saskatoon has lived up to their end already with the deal that involved the Prince Albert Raiders, but after three straight years of buying, they don’t have much left to sell. Vancouver, which was last in the entire Canadian Hockey League a year ago, feels they have an abundance of draft picks accumulated so they are looking for a top-six forward. Prince Albert has said they will continue to listen, but likely have made their splash in the trading frenzy.
Information for the WHL notebook is gathered from submissions made by the WHL Writer’s Group.