There was something about Brendan Shinnimin that Brad Treliving liked from the moment he met him.
The assistant general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes got his first glimpse of the former Tri-City Americans forward in the fall of 2011 when the Coyotes invited Shinnimin to training camp.
Shinny is a kid we brought in over a year ago to our rookie camp and we tried to sign him to an AHL deal, said Treliving, who also is the GM of the Portland Pirates, Phoenixs AHL affiliate. He told us he would go back to Tri-City until we signed him to an NHL deal.
Shinnimin returned to the Americans, won the Western Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League scoring titles, both Player of the Year awards and along the way made the Coyotes stand up and take notice.
Phoenix signed Shinnimin, 22, to a free-agent NHL contract March 2 and sent him to Portland, Maine.
What I have learned about him and why we signed him, is his competitiveness, Treliving said. He will will his way into the league (NHL).
Shinnimin is off to a good start with the Portland Pirates this season. In the first half of the season he has eight goals and 14 assists. He has three power-play goals and one short-handed. He ranks sixth in team scoring first among the rookies.
The start for me was slower than I wanted, but since Christmas Ive gotten more opportunities, said Shinnimin, who was at home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Monday, enjoying a couple of days off during the AHL All-Star break. Ive shown them what I can do and my coach (Ray Edwards) is playing me more.
Edwards has given Shinnimin time on the power play and, more recently, on the penalty kill.
He is a threat in all situations, Edwards said. We have a lot of first-year players and they find a way to make an impact every day.
Edwards knew of Shinnimins exploits in the WHL last season and said he looked forward to adding him to the lineup this year.
He had quite the year last year, Edwards said. It was amazing to watch him. We are fortunate to sign him. To expect him to come in and do that here would be unrealistic. Its a matter of him getting comfortable with the way we play. Hes the first guy to the rink and the last guy to leave. Hes always watching video and asking questions. What he has is a fine line of confidence vs. ego. He knows where he came from and his confidence drives him.
Shinnimins performance during the first part of the season was impressive enough that when the NHL lockout ended, he was invited to Phoenix for the Red-White scrimmage on Jan. 16.
Shinnimin scored a goal for Team White against Red goalie Jason LaBarbera in a 2-1 victory.
It was pretty cool to go and play in that game, Shinnimin said. Any time you can play at the NHL level is pretty neat, and I scored a goal. It was a fast-paced game. Even though I was there for just a little while, I learned a lot.
Edwards said the experience was invaluable for the six Portland players who were called up to participate in the scrimmage.
Most of these guys understand the depth chart and they have to be cognizant of that part of the game, Edwards said. It was a chance for a handful of guys to play with the guys up there and show what they can do. Everyone that went up there will see (NHL) games in the future.
Until then Shinnimin will ply his trade in Portland, where the Pirates (25-16-1-1, 52 points) lead the Atlantic Division and are third in the 15-team Eastern Conference, six points back of the first-place Binghamton Senators.
In this organization, you have to play your best to stay in the lineup, Shinnimin said. Every player up here is capable of playing in the NHL, and they compete like it every night.
A fact every player should know, Treliving said.
I think a lot of guys like Shinny who have had success, dont realize how hard the AHL is, Treliving said. He understands. Last year, they were playing against 16, 17 and 18-year-olds. Now, they are playing against guys who are 29 or 30 with a wife and kids and this is how they put food on the table.
Treliving said he has seen an improvement in Shinnimins game since the start of the season and that his numbers are very respectable for his first year.
He is starting to find his groove, Treliving said. The drive that this kid has if you told him to gnaw on barbed wire to get better, he would. That inner drive to compete and get better that is a great quality.