The Vancouver Canucks are banking on a few of their young players to step up to the plate next season and overcome some of the critics.
When it comes to the Vancouver Canucks, there are a few pairs of big skates that need to be filled.
Several key veteran pieces to this hockey club have up and left. Jacob Markstrom — a back-to-back MVP in Vancouver — and Chris Tanev — Vancouver’s best stay at home defender — have jumped ship and signed long-term deals with the Calgary Flames. Former Stanley Cup champion Tyler Toffoli got a four-year contract to play for the Montreal Canadiens, and Troy Stecher packed his bags and took his talents to Detroit to lace up his skates for the Red Wings.
That’s a lot of good NHL-quality talent that has simply vanished for the Canucks ahead of next year and now Vancouver’s NHL team will need to rely on younger up and coming prospects to fill the roles left behind by these players. General manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green will now be forced to look into the eyes of some of their questioned young guns and give them a fair shake at stepping up and becoming legit contributors. Let’s take a look at three players who have been criticized in the past for not being good enough.
It’s been a long road for Jake Virtanen. The 6th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a top-six power forward, but he’s in line to get a real shot at proving the doubters wrong next season.
And let’s be honest. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the 24-year-old local kid. Even though it was an up and down season, Virtanen enjoyed a career-high in both goals (18) and points (36). He didn’t have the best playoff performance to follow it up, but it has his first at the NHL-level and he showed glimpses of being a rough and tough playoff performer.
He’s just locked himself up for two more years in Vancouver and many critics expect this to be his last chance to prove himself worthy of being a top-10 selection. He’ll need to come to camp in the best shape of his life. If he can do that, he’ll be awarded two things he never had last season. A permanent place inside the team’s top-six and a full-time position on the second unit power play.