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Butterflies settling in for roommates Virtanen, McCann

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Jake Virtanen has played many memorable games at Scotiabank Saddledome. His biggest will come Wednesday.

The Calgary Hitmen forward will serve as alternate captain for Team Orr at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

"It's pretty cool," the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder said. "Obviously playing in front of the Hitmen fans, I'm used to that. Playing in front of the Flames fans will be pretty cool too. I played the Teddy Bear Toss here and it was fully packed for that. It was pretty cool as well. I'm kind of used to that. It'll be pretty fun to just get the game going and have fun out there."

Former NHL player Tim Hunter, who saw action in 815 games in parts of 16 seasons, put Team Orr through the paces at the morning skate.

It's the most nervous Virtanen, ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, has felt over the course of the three-day event.

"It was a little bit nerve-wracking [Wednesday] morning," he said. "You know it's game day. You're going to have a lot of fun out there but you also know there's a lot of scouts watching so obviously guys in the warmup are going to be looking in the crowd, looking at what's around. I'm kind of used to it here. It's nothing new to me but it'll be really fun to get it going."

Despite having a true home-ice advantage for the Top Prospects Game, the 17-year-old admitted the scope of the event has started to settle in.

"You get the butterflies a little bit," Virtanen said. "It's kind of cool. You're stacking up against the top guys in your age. You don't get to do that too often. I've only done it once or twice. You know when you get those butterflies that you want to be just a great player and have a good game."

Despite those nerves, Virtanen said he slept fine Tuesday. His roommate, Jared McCann, found it a little more difficult.

"I didn't get much sleep," McCann said. "I was a little bit nervous and I'm really excited to get this started. We had a good practice [Wednesday]. I feel really awake right now. I'm just ready to go."

Despite being almost 1,400 miles from his home rink with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, the ever-superstitious McCann was delighted to find out that Scotiabank Saddledome would feel like home too.

And it's allowed him to keep a tradition going in advance of his most important game of the season.

"Calgary has been really good to me," McCann said. "They're going to let me use their cold tub so I'm going to hop in before the game. I like to hop into a cold tub before every game. I don't like to get away from the things I do before the game. I'm pretty superstitious."

Here is the projected lineup for Team Orr:

Brendan Lemieux - Leon Draisaitl - Spencer Watson

Brendan Perlini - Jared McCann - Joshua Ho-Sang

Clark Bishop - Brayden Point - Jake Virtanen

Blake Clarke - Eric Cornel - Nikolaj Ehlers

Alex Peters - Aaron Ekblad

Brycen Martin - Julius Honka

Aaron Haydon - Ben Thomas

Mason McDonald (first half of game)

Julio Billia (second half of game)

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