Virtanen, Malone and the rookies
I think this contract was the best the Canucks could have asked for, especially at this point in his development. Virtanen did have a career-season in 2019-20, so he definitely deserved a raise, but not at the number an arbitrator likely would have given him. It’s not a long-term commitment either, so if he continues his inconsistent play, he could be easily traded at that term and cap hit.
Virtanen mentioned Benning’s critique at the end of the playoffs and how it motivated him to get better during the offseason, so hopefully the work he has put in pays off with a significant uptick in production.
If the Canucks do not make any more moves, he will be first in line to inherit the top-six spot vacated by Toffoli, so the pressure will be higher to produce at a consistent rate. For his sake, I hope everything falls into place this season and he finally becomes a significant threat in the top-six. If that happens, his contract will be one of the biggest bargains on the team.
I am torn between Hoglander and Rathbone. Right now, I believe it’s going to be Hoglander, especially if he gets an opportunity in the top-six. Even if he’s playing with Gaudette on the third-line and the second unit power play, he should still get plenty of opportunities to put up points.
Despite his recent struggles in the Swedish Hockey League, I think he has the best chance of having a solid rookie season in the NHL in 2020-21. He should be in mid-season form when January comes around and could hit the ground running while everyone else is still in the starting blocks.
Although, if Rathbone has the same positive transition from the NCAA to the NHL as Hughes did, he could surprise everyone. His former teammate, Adam Fox, had a very solid rookie season with the New York Rangers when he posted eight goals and 42 points in 70 games, so if he can follow in his footsteps, that could be him in 2020-21. He has the skills and smarts to do it, and if he’s also given power play time on the second unit with Schmidt, the sky’s the limit for the Harvard University grad.
Can you give us an update on oft forgotten Canucks draftee Jack Malone?
Jack Malone played for Cornell University in 2019-20 and posted two goals and eight points in 27 games after spending the last three seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed NCAA hockey until 2021, so he’s not playing right now. He’s currently attending Cornell as a student majoring in applied economics and management, so he’s still practicing and working out for the eventual start of the 2020-21 season.
Malone remains an intriguing late-round prospect for the Canucks despite an average freshman season. He didn’t produce a lot of points but was a solid plus-11, which ranked second amongst all freshmen in the ECAC. His ice time was also limited which could have contributed to his lack of production. When his season finally gets going, he should get more of an opportunity as several high-profile players will be moving on to professional hockey.
When he was drafted, Malone was touted as a well-rounded forward with a nose for the net. As reported by Canucks Army’s Chris Faber, he also is a tireless worker ready to do anything to make himself better. So I have no doubt that he will be ready to go when he gets on the ice again.
That brings us to the end of yet another mailbag on The Canuck Way. The offseason is in full swing, and the Canucks roster is starting to take shape. There will undoubtedly be more movement, especially with how close they are to the salary cap.
So as we wait for the next move, keep those questions coming and I will endeavor to keep answering them every week. Keep an eye out for the tweet announcing the next one by following us on Twitter @FSTheCanuckWay.