Jake Virtanen closed out the 2015 Young Stars Classic just like he started it: with a bang.
The 2014 first-rounder scored the 3-on-3 overtime winner on a breakaway with 1:13 remaining in the extra frame to give the Canucks a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday evening.
Virtanen was digging at what he thought was a loose puck under the glove of Calgary goaltender Nick Schneider while play went the other way, indirectly resulting in the winner.
“I thought the goalie had it under his glove and the defenceman was kind of cheating thinking the goalie was going to play it,” said Virtanen. “I heard a bunch of people yelling at me so I just tried to hustle back and I saw the puck pop out. I knew there was a guy beside me and I just had to beat him to get the breakaway.”
Dane Fox and Rodrigo Abols also tallied for the Canucks, while Clay Witt and Jackson Whistle combined to make 22 saves between the pipes.
After a lopsided 8-2 loss to kick things off in Penticton, the Canucks responded with back-to-back solid efforts, resulting in a second place 2-1-0 record.
“After that first game we really wanted to respond appropriately,” said Virtanen. “I think we did that throughout the last two games here. We really showed that we could play as a team and play a full 60 minutes. We had a couple penalties tonight and they’re pretty good on the power play, but we did an overall good job on the penalty kill tonight.”
Several prospects, including Virtanen, had strong showings throughout the tournament, but it was the depth that caught the eye of Canucks general manager, Jim Benning.
“I like our prospects pool,” said Benning. “We are starting to get some depth in it right now compared to last year. I think we have a legitimate five to seven future NHL players out there, which is good to see and I think every year going forward we are just going to add to that.”
The club now turns its attention to Main Camp, which kicks-off on Thursday in Prince George. All Canucks draft picks are expected to join the veterans at camp, where Benning says they will get the chance to impress and earn a spot on the team regardless of their situation.
“If these kids deserve to make the team, then we will make room for them.”