4. RW Jake Virtanen
Acquired: Drafted 6th overall, 2014
Having played just 55 games in the NHL, Jake Virtanen still qualified as a rookie in our rankings. He only made No. 4 with an average rank of 3.4, but he is probably the most NHL-ready of them all. Virtanen missed five games during the 2016 World Junior Championship and was a healthy scratch for several others. However, he is one of the Canucks’ top defensive players and, other than his scoring struggles, he had no issues playing against the world’s elite.
Read More: NHL vs. AHL for Jake Virtanen
But yet, Virtanen is not a lock to crack the roster again this season. He has some untouched scoring upside that might be better developed in the AHL, so the Canucks brass will have to make a decision here. Virtanen is without a doubt NHL-ready, but they probably don’t want him to become a bottom-six grinder for his entire career.
If Virtanen stays in the NHL, his development will be heavily influenced by his ice time, usage and line mates. Playing 15 minutes per night with Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat could be enough to recover his scoring ability. Playing less than 10 minutes on the fourth line for another year could hurt his development forever.
Next: Nikita Tryamkin