Vancouver Canucks prospects ranking Top 20: #9 Jake Virtanen

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Jake Virtanen
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Jake Virtanen /

Can the Vancouver Canucks look at their prospects pool and say “quality over quantity”?

The Vancouver Canucks have a solid number of prospects who have been either steals from the later rounds or undrafted free agent signings out of NCAA or the juniors. So far through our rankings, we have seen numerous hard-working character players who have high-ceiling projections.

But no NHL team is ever built with a dozen Milan Lucics or with a dozen Jonah Gadjoviches. No winning blueline is built with six Evan McEnenys, nor is it built with six Kristoffer Gunnarssons. At the end of the day, the true question is this:

Do the Canucks have quality prospects?

I mean, a prospects pool is only as good as the NHL players it produces, right?

As great as having ten picks in a seven-round draft is, those ten picks pale in value compared to two picks in the first ten selections. As we dive deeper into our prospects rankings and into the top ten this week, we will be able to put together a true assessment of the quality of the Canucks prospects pipeline.

No more undersized boom-or-bust prospects. No more overage juniors who have big question marks whether they will ever succeed at the pro level. It’s time for the real deal. It’s time for the real players.

We present to you Week 3 of The Canuck Way 2017 Canucks Prospects Ranking.

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TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 5: Jake Virtanen /

The Canuck Way 2017 Canucks Prospects Ranking

Our TCW staff ranked all Canucks prospects. The criteria: whatever each writer thinks is important. Current position in the organization, talent, potential, and chance of NHL success. All prospects under 24 years of age were considered as long as they did not spend significant time in the NHL.

After looking at LW Jonah Gadjovich yesterday, let’s dip into the single digits and look at No. 9 Jake Virtanen!

No. 9 RW Jake Virtanen

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 207 lbs
DOB: 1996-08-17 (Age 20)
Drafted: Sixth Overall, 2014 Entry Draft

2016-17 Stats: 65GP – 9G – 19PTS – 48PIM (AHL, Utica Comets)

Is it too early to call Jake Virtanen a bust pick for the Canucks? The former sixth-overall pick took a step back and played in the AHL this past season, which was his draft+2 year. Was it really a step back? What does the future hold for Virtanen? Do we know him well enough to write him off as a prospect already?

 Strengths: Skating & Aggressiveness

What we know about Virtanen for sure, though, is that he lives and dies by speed. His skating is undoubtedly good. The power and fluidity in his strides make him an efficient forechecker and a good transition forward on the rush. Now that his weight and conditioning are non-issues, Virtanen’s skating should be back to where it was before, if not better.

Virtanen was not the smartest pick at sixth overall but his skating was ranked among the best in his draft class.

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We should not forget about the offensive potential with Virtanen, either.

His wrist shot was dominant in the WHL and still poses a threat at the NHL level. The slick hands aren’t there but the production could come with being smart and clinical.

On the checking side of things, Virtanen has shown that he can throw some solid checks when asked to. This is a testament to his strength and his aggressive mindset.

I know that everyone was upset over Virtanen’s conditioning after the last offseason which saw him tip the scales in the 220-pound range. I am not going to justify Virtanen’s decision to put on so much weight.

I am, however, going to suggest that Virtanen’s decision stems from his desire to be more physically dominating in the NHL. He made an unwise decision but his desire was to be the kind of guy who strikes fear into the opposing blueliners who go back to retrieve the puck.

Weaknesses: Defensive awareness & Hockey IQ

As can be seen in his decision to put on so much weight, Virtanen does not have the mental side of being a pro hockey player fully equipped yet. Perhaps this past season in the AHL has changed that, but on the ice, Virtanen’s inefficiency in the defensive zone has raised eyebrows at times, to say the least.

On the other side of the equation, the offence does not come so naturally to Virtanen in the passing department. He is a straight-line player who is only truly effective when with the puck offensively. Virtanen’s offence is quite one-dimensional and ill-suited for a power play situation.

Though Virtanen only converted nine goals last season, the highlight video here shows the many other chances that he has produced with his speed and his heavy shot.

Projection: Middle-six power winger

Virtanen was never meant to be an elite goalscorer. He was never meant to be a static fourth-line grinder, either. While Virtanen must find ways to prove himself capable of a physical and offensive role in the NHL, he has the tools to become a long-time NHL player either way.

We project Virtanen to be a middle-six forward who plays aggressively with speed and contributes decently in the goals department.

Next: Prospects Ranking Top 20 - #10 Jonah Gadjovich

– 2017 TheCanuckWay Prospects Ranking Top 20 –

#10 – Jonah Gadjovich
#11 – D Jordan Subban

#12 – F William Lockwood

#13 – G Michael DiPietro
#14 – D Guillaume Brisebois
#15 – D Evan McEneny

#16 – F Petrus Palmu

#17 – D Jack Rathbone

#18 – D Jalen Chatfield
#19 – F Cole Cassels

#20 – D Kristoffer Gunnarsson
The Honourable Mentions

The Vancouver Canucks did not do Virtanen any good by bringing him up to the NHL two years ago. But that certainly does not mean Virtanen is a bust pick already. Though Virtanen has been outdone by many players drafted after him, he is still a valuable top-ten prospect in the Canucks system who brings a combination of size, speed and scoring that almost no other prospect offers.