PHILADELPHIA -- The focus for most of the top prospects who took part in a media availability session at the National Constitutional Center on Thursday was what they could do to make the NHL next season. For Calgary Hitmen left wing Jake Virtanen, the goal is a bit different: He's focused on getting healthy enough to return to the lineup as soon as possible.
Virtanen had surgery on his left shoulder in May to repair a torn labrum. The initial diagnosis was a recovery time of four to six months, and he told NHL.com he's targeting a mid-October return.
"I think the whole thing is going really well," he said. "You want to be healthy, that's the main thing. The rehab is going really well. I'm at full range of motion already so it's gone really well so far."
Virtanen, No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft, played through the shoulder injury for the second half of the season and had 45 goals and 71 points in 71 Western Hockey League games, as well as six points in seven games for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
He's willing to stay out as long as necessary to make sure he's back at that same level of play.
"I don't want to rush anything," he said. "I want to make sure I'm 100-percent healthy and doing the things I have to do to be healthy and get back in the lineup."
Virtanen said he expects to start skating in about two weeks; after that, he'll progress to stickhandling, shooting and then taking and receiving contact.
"I'm doing a lot of cardio right now," he said. "I'm just doing bands with my left arm. Just getting healthy is the main thing I've been really focusing on. ... It's something that won't happen again. I'm happy about that. The doctors said I'll be able to do things I've done before so that's good."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK