Jake Virtanen 2014 First Rounders: Will They Make It


We are literally just hours away from seeing prospects from various teams take to the ice in one of many prospect tournaments happening this weekend. The Buffalo Sabres will be hitting the ice at 3:30 to square off against the Hurricanes and full training camps open next week. Can you tell I’m excited?

Hitting the ice at these prospect tournaments will be many of the 2014 first round picks so what better time to do a profile on them and their shot at cracking the roster. Today we’re taking a look at Jake Virtanen and the Vancouver Canucks.

Prior to Draft

Ahead of the draft Jake Virtanen played in his third season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL where he had his best season in terms of point production. He produced at a point per game pace recording 71 points in 71 games with the Hitmen.

When he wasn’t producing for the Hitmen, he laced up for the U18 World Championship team and helped Canada capture the bronze medal in 2014 after brining home a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Championship in 2013. At the U18 Championships he led the team with 6 points, helping him climb a few more steps up the draft rankings.

 “It’s unfortunate I can’t be playing here, but right now I’m just trying to heal.There isn’t any pain in the shoulder. It feels really normal actually.” ~ Jake Virtanen

Unfortunately a first round playoff exit ended Virtanen’s season with the Hitmen but did allow for him to undergo a necessary shoulder surgery in May.

Heading into the draft Jake Virtanen was in all purposes the wild card in the rankings. He wasn’t expected to go inside the top 5 and most had him falling in the 6-9 range, while others had him off the board around 12-14. The Vancouver Canucks decided Virtanen was their best option and took the forward with their 6th overall pick.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are a bit of an interesting team right now. It wasn’t too long ago they were playing in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, just a game away from winning the Stanley Cup. Now their team appears to be in shambles.

Through goaltending controversies which ended up costing them both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, injuries to the twins and drama amongst the players, the Canucks have quickly gone from one of the leagues best to a bottom 10 team.

Their rebuilding but not rebuilding if that makes any sense. They’ve brought in goaltender Ryan Miller to lock down the crease and have admitted the need for a new direction. They have a lot of key pieces but those pieces are getting older and for that reason the Canucks are rebuilding on the fly, trying to patch the holes that appear instead of reconstructing the whole ship.

They haven’t had much room in their top 6 for young talent but right now they could certainly use the kind of game that Jake Virtanen brings.

Unfortunately the Canucks will have to wait to see what they have Virtanen as he has not been cleared for contact post surgery and will not be playing at the young stars tournament this weekend. The initial word indicated he would be out until December and while he’s ahead of schedule, he won’t be ready any time soon.

Will he play his rookie season in 2014-2015

While he is back and skating with the Calgary Hitmen he has yet to get full clearance to return to play which means Jake Virtanen will not make this season his rookie season. He’s likely a few more weeks to a month away from getting clearance, then he’ll have to test his shoulder and get back into game condition. It’s best for him to stick in the WHL where he probably feels a little safer as one of the older guys.

One thing that makes him so intriguing is the physical presence he brings to the ice and with surgery it will take awhile for him to get back into that kind of a game.