Vancouver Canucks preseason: 5 Lineup battles to watch in the last games

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 29: Jake Virtanen
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 29: Jake Virtanen /
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VANCOUVER, BC – MARCH 31: Nikolay Goldobin /

Battle to be the Young and Speedy Winger:
Jake Virtanen vs. Nikolay Goldobin

It’s a tough call. My gut feeling is telling me it is Jake Virtanen, my brain is telling me it’s Nikolay Goldobin. Now with Reid Boucher out, is there room for both? Still, I think not. So who is it?

The Canucks have a youth agenda in place, one that preaches patience and AHL development. A part of the reason that is so is the Jake Virtanen mishap two years ago when Vancouver saw his development stall after being rushed to the NHL.

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After a work-hard-become-professional season under coach Travis Green in Utica, the former sixth-overall selection is lighting it up in preseason hockey with four points (three goals) in four games.

With much less weight than before, Virtanen has looked a lot quicker and elusive, primed for more offensive hockey.

We may not see so many devastating hits from him this year but his speed will make him much more effective as a checker.

Nikolay Goldobin was starting to wither away under Virtanen’s shadows to begin preseason. Goldobin has nothing left to prove at the AHL level and has shown glimpses of offensive upside in the NHL.

He started producing and looking lively in the most recent matches, now with a goal and three points in four games. He has looked much more dependable defensively, though he may not be a strong NHL-level two-way player. His agile skating helps him make up for most defensive deficiencies.

Both need to play lots to develop. Goldobin may have a higher offensive ceiling so may require more skilled linemates while Virtanen has a game that fits fine on the third line. Neither requires waivers. What’s the call?


While Goldobin has nothing left to prove in the NHL, Virtanen has not proven that he can dominate offensively in the AHL. Even if it means bringing Virtanen up a month or two into the season, sending him down to Utica to give guys like Rodin more time is the right move and the best option.

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Unless the Canucks make a huge (and unlikely) commitment to go Boeser-Goldobin-Virtanen down the right wing, there is no suitable place for Virtanen to excel and to develop in the NHL lineup.

Tell Virtanen that he has a spot in the NHL as soon as a winger goes down or goes out in a trade. Show the young man the organization’s confidence in him and tell him to improve his stock in the AHL. He has revived his prospect status through these preseason games and the Canucks should be happy that there is one less “high draft pick bust” to worry about.