#7: Jake Virtanen: 2014 6th overall
Jake Virtanen was Benning’s first draft pick as GM.
There was a lot to like about the Abbotsford native. With the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, he knew how to score plenty of goals, displayed great acceleration and threw some big hits. There was a ton of upside and a ton of potential in Virtanen.
However, Virtanen’s defensive play and decision-making were big flaws. Turns out, they were the biggest reasons why he didn’t become a top-six forward.
Virtanen had the tools but he didn’t know how to use them properly. He was constantly making the wrong decisions with the puck. That included him dumping and changing in overtime in the 2020-21 season. Virtanen also looked totally lost without the puck.
There were moments where some people thought he would break out which included the 2019-20 season where he managed 18 goals and 18 assists in 69 games. But consistency was also another issue with him. It looked like Virtanen was just happy to be playing in the NHL and it did not look like he wanted to improve his game.
The Canucks bought him out last summer and he spent this past season with the KHL’s Spartak Moskova.
Virtanen also was placed on leave by the Canucks in May of 2021, after there were sexual assault allegations that went public. As a result, an investigation was launched by the Vancouver Police Department and he was charged with sexual assault last January.
#6: Jared McCann: 2014 24th overall
Jared McCann was the other player selected in the first round by the Canucks in 2014.
Scouts liked his two-way game, skating, shot and work ethic. After impressing with the Sault Saint Marie Greyhounds, the Canucks decided to keep him along with Virtanen on the roster during the 2015-16 season.
He started off strong. Canucks fans were excited after watching him score his first NHL goal against Calgary.
But McCann struggled with consistency and there were a lot of areas in his game that needed to improve. He probably should have been sent back to junior that year.
Former teammate Jannik Hansen said on Sportsnet 650 last week that Benning was looking for a success story and McCann and Virtanen were both rushed to the NHL.
While the Canucks let him in the NHL too quickly, they also gave up on him too quickly. In May of 2016, he and Vancouver’s 2016 second and fourth round picks were traded to Florida for Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth.
McCann improved gradually with the Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. This past season, it looked like he broke out. With the Seattle Kraken, McCann managed 27 goals and 23 assists for 50 points in 74 games.
If only the Canucks were more patient with McCann.