Vancouver Canucks fans won’t have to wait too much longer to get a glimpse of first-round pick Jake Virtanen in action. The power-forward is back on the ice practicing with the team and has just one month left in his recovery process before he will be cleared for contact.
While fans are anxious to get a chance to see him play, Virtanen is also itching to get back in game action, especially now that the team has hit the ice in Penticton for the 2014 Young Stars Classic.
“It’s tough watching your team play, but I know I’m only a few weeks away from coming back,” he said. “The date that has been set for me is October 15 and I am hoping that’s the date so I can come back as soon as possible, try to make the team, and if not, head back to Calgary and have a successful year.
“It’s a first impression for a lot of the guys here and I wish I could go out and give my first impression to everyone.”
Virtanen suffered the shoulder subluxation for the first time in January and then twice more after that. Instead of cutting his season short so he could be ready for the start of this season, he opted to play through it and finish out the year, which included a stint with the Canadian National Under-18 team, before he opted to get his shoulder repaired.
“We had a pretty strong team in Calgary last year,” said Virtanen, who had 71 points (45-26-71) and 100 penalty-minutes in 71 games with the Hitmen last season. “We wanted to make a run for the Memorial Cup and we made some trades for some skilled guys but unfortunately we lost in the first round. The Under-18 Championship was right after that and I definitely wanted to throw on the jersey and represent my country.”
But now, four months after the surgery, Virtanen is feeling good and doesn’t appear to have any limitations, besides contact, during practice as a result of the procedure.
“I was kind of nervous after surgery that my shoulder would feel different on the ice,” he said. “But it feels normal and it feels good. I don’t have any problems shooting the puck or skating, I just need to clear the contact part.”
Utica Comets head coach Travis Green has been impressed with what he has seen of the Canucks first-rounder, on and off the ice, thus far.
“I didn’t get to be around him too much at development camp (in July),” said Green. “I am just starting to get to know him a little bit here, he seems like a real good kid, a hard worker, and I like what I have seen of him in practice; he is a really good player.”