Much like fellow top prospect Nick Ritchie, Jake Virtanen could be the National Hockey League’s next big power forward.
Virtanen is a 6-foot-1, 208-pound winger who was the NHL’s Central Scouting Service’s ninth ranked North American skater at the midterms but jumped three spots to sixth by the final rankings.
“He’s the type of player that could go through you, over top of you or around you because he’s a great skater,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes lead amateur scout.
An Abbotsford, British Columbia, native, Virtanen completed his second full season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in 2013-14. He ranked first on the team and fourth in the WHL in goals (45), tallying nine multi-goal games. He also ranked third on the team in points (71), stringing together an eight-game point streak in December and January and a six-game point streak in February.
|LEFT WING |
|HOMETOWN: ABBOTSFORD, BC |
|HEIGHT: 6'1" |
|WEIGHT: 208 |
|BIRTHDAY: AUG. 17, 1996 (AGE 17) |
“He’s got a great shot, an NHL shot, actually,” MacDonald said.
He was also a plus-23 player and posted 100 penalty minutes, second-most on the team, displaying the bit of edge he can play with as a big body.
“He’s a very hard guy to play against,” MacDonald said. “He’s a tough guy to defend because of his size, strength and skating.”
Virtanen, 17, factored in with a goal and three assists (four points) in six games as Calgary was bested 4-2 by the Kootenay Ice in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
In his first full season in the WHL in 2012-13, Virtanen ranked second in team rookie scoring with 34 points (16g, 18a). He added six points (2g, 4a) in 15 postseason games, again ranking second on team rookie scoring, as Calgary dropped a Game 7 decision to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference finals.
Virtanen recently underwent surgery in Vancouver to repair an “unstable” shoulder and is expected to miss four to six months, marking a potential return to the ice in August or September and game action in October. Even still, the injury is not likely to affect his draft position.
Virtanen, who holds dual citizenship in Canada and his father’s native country of Finland, competes for Team Canada internationally. Most recently, Virtanen captured bronze in the IIHF World U-18 Championship, posting six points (3g, 3a) in seven tournament games.
“He had a very strong under-18 tournament with Canada,” MacDonald said. “He scored some big goals for them.”
And in the near future, he’ll be scoring some big goals for an NHL team with one of the first 10 picks on Friday in Philadelphia.