The Vancouver Canucks have made some questionable signings over this offseason but one player who can take his game to the next level for the team next year is Jake Virtanen and the Canucks will have him locked in at an average annual salary of 1.25 million dollars over the next two years.
Jim Benning has finished his offseason list of players to sign, extending their young player to a new contract.
Some fans have expected more out of the former sixth overall pick in 2014, when you draft a player that high you would expect him to potentially be a top six player for your team.
Well here’s the thing, HE IS!
Jake Virtanen is still only 21 years old, he has had some amazing flashes of excellence since he was asked to play for the Canucks as a 19 year old. There are times when I catch myself watching him skate past defenceman like a motorcyclist on the shoulder during a traffic jam on the Malahat highway.
But then there are time where he shelters himself and goes for the other option of cowering behind the net instead of putting his head down and making a solid drive towards the goaltender. I think there’s more to see from Virtanen moving forward.
There should be some more powerplay opportunity this season, we got to see a very small sample size last year at the end of the season.
Perhaps Virtanen should get some penalty killer minutes as well, his breakaway speed is something that would surely give opposing powerplays something to worry about as a breakaway would only be one bad pass away. I also tend to believe that getting some time on the penalty kill can help round out a player’s skill set, the hockey IQ needs to be good to play the penalty kill and if Virtanen could add that weapon to his arsenal then he could be a more valuable player to this organization.
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Virtanen is coming off of a 20 point season that saw him split his goals and assists down the middle with 10 a piece. A better season for himself after seeing a long AHL stint last season that saw him not produce more than 10 goals with the Comets.
It was a positive year for Virtanen, he played full time as an NHL player and got to earn more trust from the coach who he has had for basically two full seasons now. That trust was noticeable in the 21 finals games of the year, where Virtanen saw a bump in minutes, he averaged 14:24 per game in that final run of games. That’s a significant upgrade in minutes after he only averages 11:03 of ice time in his first 54 games of the season.
Moving forward I’d love to see Virtanen get all the chances in the world to play top six minutes, it’s not like there are a ton of right wingers in the organization that are burying him down in the depth chart. Virtanen has so many skills that are capable of being at an elite level and his natural power from the size he has is reason to believe in this kid.
He’s a kid, 21 years old guys. There is a lot of time for him to turn into what players hoped he would be and that is a power forward who can make in impact as a top six winger. Virtanen isn’t far away, he has the pieces of the puzzle but at times it seems like he’s lost the box with the picture of how the puzzle should look upon completion. If he can thrive with an Elias Pettersson this year as a linemate it could be on one of the most exciting and fun Canucks lines to watch. “Speed and skill”.
In conclusion, 1.25 million of average annual salary is good for the Canucks and good for Virtanen. They both want to see him take his game to the next level and getting a two year show me deal benefits both sides. Travis Green will give him more minutes this season and should get an opportunity to see some top six time with skilled scoring forwards. I may be one of the biggest Virtanen supporters but it’s because I truly believe he has the skill to be an elite power forward, he just needs put it all together at once.
Who would your ideal linemates be for Jake Virtanen?