PHILADELPHIA – Even with a nagging shoulder injury, Jake Virtanen put together a fine season for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
The left wing scored a team-high 45 goals and then went on to help Team Canada win bronze at the Under-18 World Championship in Finland, tying for the team lead in points.
Virtanen had surgery in May to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder and was thus unable to partake in the fitness testing at the NHL Combine at the end of the month.
He said he first sustained the injury in the middle of the season but re-injured it sometime after and then again in the playoffs. When the combination of rest and rehab wasn’t working well enough, he elected to have surgery to repair the torn labrum once his season ended after much discussion with his family and agent.
Virtanen is NHL Central Scouting’s sixth-ranked North American skater and is expected to be a Top 10 pick Friday night.
He hopes to be ready by mid-October and he doesn’t think that his recovery will negatively impact his draft stock.
“I’ve told quite a few people that with the technology nowadays, I think that won’t hurt me,” Virtanen said on Thursday. “They have some great doctors and I know I had my surgery by great doctors. I think it won’t hurt me too much.”
Doctors have told him that he’ll be able to do all of the things after rehab that he could prior to the surgery.
“I’m doing great. I think my shoulder’s done really well so far and my doctor has said it’s one of the best-looking shoulders from rehab he’s seen,” Virtanen said. “So that’s good news and I’m happy about that news. It’s something you can look at and say I can only get healthy from this.”