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NHL Draft Profile: Jake Virtanen

by Brad Friedman / Columbus Blue Jackets

A physical player in the mold of a power forward, Jake Virtanen has made quite the splash in his second year in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Virtanen was selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 WHL bantam draft with hopes that he would develop into an elite offensive threat, and he did just that.

The Calgary Hitmen left wing led his squad in scoring with 45 goals during the 2013-14 campaign, giving him the fifth-most goals in the WHL. Though his goal-scoring has garnered the most attention from scouts all over the league, it's his physicality that separates him from other skilled players in his draft class.

The 6-foot, 208 lb. forward models his game after former Blue Jackets captain and current New York Ranger Rick Nash, one of the NHL's elite big men. Virtanen sees parallels between his playing style and Nash's, but he might be more of a crash-and-banger than Nash was during his junior career with the London Knights.

Virtanen's aggressiveness is visible when the puck is on his stick. He uses his speed to breeze by defenders and crashes the net to pick up scrappy goals, highlight-reel goals, you name it - he can score them all.

All of Virtanen's tools were on display in an Oct. 20 matchup against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, when it only took 8:16 and three shots on goal for the hats to come flying onto the ice, marking Virtanen's first WHL hat trick. Not bad for less than a half a period of work, right?

Virtanen's continued offensive prowess during the 2013-14 campaign elevated the Hitmen to 103 points and the third spot in the Western Conference. Calgary's season came to end in the first round after dropping its series 4-2 to the Kootenay Ice, but Virtanen lit the lamp once and dished out three assists in the six-game series.

Here's what NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan had to say about Virtanen:

"He's got a complete, all-around pro game right now. He's tough to play against, makes things happen on the ice. When you're out there with him, better have your head up because he could put you through the wall. He's got that package of high-end skill that doesn't come along too often; he's like a Jarome Iginla type of player who can do everything."

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