Jake Virtanen Assigned to Utica

Not to be outdone by The Donald’s electoral success or their own last night in New York, the Canucks have heaped another topic on the mountain of discussable items.

After weeks long debates on Jake Virtanen’s status and whether he’s best suited with the Canucks or the Utica Comets, Vancouver’s acquiesced to an increasingly discontent fan base and sent Virtanen to Utica. This happens amid questions about Virtanen’s confidence, health, professionalism and ability to contribute on a nightly basis in the Canucks lineup.

During the off-season, expectations were high for the 20-year-old. The Canucks made it known that he was training hard and training weekly with the Canucks at Rogers Arena. Jim Benning openly expressed his expectation that Jake increase his scoring totals from last year, and they have also spoken publicly that Virtanen was almost a ‘necessity’ for the roster because of his physicality, speed, and shot.

Unfortunately for him, Jake registered just one assist through 10 games. Making matters worse, a significant topic of discussion emerged when he expressed his desire for more ice time and opportunities. Navigate here to read what the media had to say when this situation made headlines.

Some might say that this assignment is long overdue. Virtanen has been a healthy scratch in four out of the Canucks’ 14 games. Even when he laced up the skated, his play did not necessarily stand out. He has also taken some hard beatings, prompting questions about his health and why his physicality – the aspect of his game that he is most known for – has been lacking whenever he played. The heated game vs. Toronto would have been a perfect situation for him to implement his physical edge into the game, but that was not the case.

Virtanen has been sent to Utica before. During their 2014-15 playoff run, he dressed for ten games and registered one assist. Last season, he was sent down on a conditioning sting and registered 0 points in 2 games. Utica is going through a rough patch this season, meaning Virtanen will most likely be given ample opportunities to be a go-to player.

As it stands right now, Virtanen will probably be given a 1st-line role alongside Alex Grenier and the centre who replaces the currently-called-up Michale Chaput. Under the guidance of Travis Green, Jake is expected to thrive on a poor Utica Comets team. His time in Utica will allow him to refine his all-around game, as well as on/off-ice consistency. There will be high expectations for him in Utica. As a 6th-overall pick, he is expected to provide significant offence and be a very important factor on the team. For a player who has yet to show consistent offensive skills in the professional league, his play in Utica will say lots. 

Virtanen’s stint in Utica is not going to be a long one. Regardless of whether or not you agree with management’s decision, this seems to be a step in the right direction. We will get to see how Virtanen plays in a go-to role, albeit for a short amount of time. The amount of ‘development’ that takes place through two games is questionable. For now, this assignment appears to be a step in the right direction.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Finally. Whenever Virtanen gets the puck, he seems to always turn it over in seconds.

    I’m tired of seeing Horvat and Baertschi working their asses off only to pass the puck to Virtanen who promptly loses it.

    Hopefully he goes to Utica and gets top line minutes and can learn to be stronger on the puck.

    Canucks do not need a player who is only capable of hitting, there are plenty of free agent 4th liners for that, like Skille.

    Shame we wasted a first round pick on him. Nylander or Ehlers would have been better.

    • Spiel

      Ya Jake is looking like he wasn’t the right pick at #6.

      On the brightside, Virtanen, McCann, Tryamkin, Forsling have all played NHL games and look like they will have careers. Demko on his way.
      Dare we say good draft by Benning and the scouts?

  • Vanoxy

    I don’t like Benning stating that it’s just a 2 game stint.

    He should be sent there until he earns his way back to the NHL

    Getting him into a couple of games in a top line role is great, but this isn’t the motivator that it could be.

    • The Flying Skate

      My thoughts exactly, how does just a couple games get him to where you want him to be? On top of that, how does him knowing it’s only going to be 2 games?

      Just doesn’t add up, I’m sure there are few that think he should stay I the NHL and can show his corsi amongst the team but I just feel with a ceiling like his needs to be developed with big minutes, given the way he has performed. Probably best suited in the AHL for awhile…potentially with his future coach.

      Sorry Willie

      • Vanoxy

        I see Evander Kane is healthy…

        And Jake is going to spend the weekend a couple hr drive from Buffalo.

        We know Benning has always coveted Kane, I wonder if the recent skid has him willing to give up his first blue-chip pick to make it happen…

        this seems more like a case of showcasing Virt in this scenario than actually trying to get him going.

  • clutch fan

    Not the worst thing in the world for him.

    I think Benning complaining about what the market thinks of his moves is a bit laughable though, of course people will second guess a GMs/coaches personnel moves when the team’s results are so bad for so long.

    Jack Skille played good against the Rangers, but against the Islanders he was horrible but put right back in for the next day. He seems to get more leeway than Virtanen, for example.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Greetings Canuckleheads…

    Well, here is another FINE example of a decent young player JUST 20 YEARS OLD FFS, being mishandled by the Canucks and then systematically DESTROYED by the local carrion (the fans) and circling vultures (the press). Both of whom cannot WAIT to maul these young guys like Donald Trump backstage at a Miss World Pagent.

    Guys, is it any WONDER that great young players like FORSLING, McCANN, KASSIAN and SHINKARUK have been RUINED by the worst run franchise in the NHL… aided and abetted by their VILE fans and press, only to resurface with renewed upside, vigor and HAPPINESS upon leaving for whiter ice elsewhere.

    Further to this, how on EARTH is JAKE going to benefit from joining a TERRIBLE team that’s DEAD LAST in the AHL, one that was in the Calder Cup FINAL just a couple of years ago only to be ripped apart too soon by over zealous and SHORTSIGHTED Canucks Management.

    It’s an utter DISGRACE…. ISN’T IT?

    • KMA

      The recent history of the NHL explains for those who can read that the Oilers have for the last ten consecutive years managed to miss the playoffs due entirely because of incompetent management. That my little friend is the textbook example of the worst run franchise.

      • Suzycue123

        And now the Canucks are the WORST run franchise in the NHL. You can’t deny that!!! A gym rat and an amateur account running your team. I mean he couldn’t even get a damn draft pick for hamuis and ended up letting him walk!!

        He’s ruining your team b4 your eyes and here u are drinking the kool aid he’s serving to u.

        “Oh it’s good we’re good we compete it’s good he’s ok he’ll be good it’s good everything’s good” Man U eat his words up eh??

    • Fred-65

      Just to add a little fact to your pathetic attempt. Forsling never played fro Vcr so he wasn’t ruined by Vcr. McCann was traded for a player we had a great need for… a 6’4″ defenseman. Kassian sniffed too much according to the Vcr/Buff/Mtl press. Shinkaruk contrary to your explanation followed the Detroit model by allowing him to develop in the AHL. Four tries four strike outs. Tut tut

      By the way Calgary has sent Shinkaruk back to the AHL …he couldn’t make it in Calgary either(Granlund has almost as many pts in the NHL that Shikaruk has in the AHL) and in Florida McCann has 1 goal so far

  • What Jake needs more than anything is to play.

    Utica may feel like a demotion to him, but is really just part of his development. Power forwards take longer to make an impact, similar to defensemen and goalies.

    So, suck it up, play lots of minutes, and hone your skills. When your next chance comes, give it your all. JIm Benning drafted Jake and wants him to be successful. We all want him to be successful. At this point the AHL looks like the best option.

  • Rodeobill

    “development” in more than one sense of the word.
    As a teacher myself, I can testify that sometimes shaking things up, re-evaluating one’s life and situation (aside from previous expectations and pressures) finding oneself, grounding in reality, and shifting one’s paradigm can be even more beneficial than the physical “development” of just practicing the game. I hope he can tap into that, develop a healthy mature ego that will set him up for success. Sometimes tells you you are great and full of potential, and we all like to hear that and want to believe it, so we do. And why not that is a winners mentality!? And then we feel entitled, and it can stop us from listening to anyone but ourselves. And our potential sagnates.

    Distant from the person and situation I can only guess this maybe is part of the case from media and games.

    From the media, I think Jake does listen to Hank, who is a good influence, but this be a good move for him too (even if hard to accept).

    Its not easy growing up in the spotlight! Just ask anyone from Gary coleman to Justin bieber.

  • Bud Poile

    $100,000 CDN per month for floating.

    Most of society works their tails off for peanuts.

    Suck it up and grow up,kid. The world doesn’t owe you a thing.

    • Freud

      ?

      It’s right in the story, Benning reported he was training hard and with the team through the summer. What evidence do you have that Virtanen was not working?

      You sound like you’re 90 years old…

  • Marvin101

    So Jake will be making AHL money rather than NHL money. Leave him in the AHL long enough that it costs him a good chunk of change, that should motivate him.

  • tyhee

    I’ve long throught Jake should be sent down, but doing it this way risks hurting his development rather than helping.

    He’s told it will only be 2 games. What incentive is there for him to play hard for Green knowing he’ll be back in Vancouver before the weekend is over?

    If he needs more than two games, or for any reason it doesn’t work out this weekend and he comes back anyway, what has been gained? He gets to know they feel they need him in Vancouver regardless of whether he’s playing well? He gets little time to learn from Green.

    I hope he tears up the AHL this weekend. If he doesn’t, then announcing he was down for only 2 games works out badly. An organization doesn’t develop professionalism sending young players down and bringing them right back up regardless of how they have played.

  • Cageyvet

    I have no idea why so many comments seem to feel Virtanen needs to be punished. I’m glad he’s going to Utica, and I don’t think he needs to be promised a speedy return.

    He needs ice time, encouragement, and he needs to earn a return to the NHL. What he doesn’t need is to be prematurely judged, either as a hockey player or a person. He’s a young man, and he is finding his way under immense pressure, and for his hometown team, no less.

    Here’s hoping he puts it together and realizes his potential. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, is it not? Nor does it matter what others say. I hope he believes in himself and remembers what he did after the world juniors – turned the page, and just played hockey. That player looked pretty good to me.

  • Copperfinch

    I feel for the young man. Had he been drafted somewhere in the second round management wouldn’t be trying to save face by force feeding him NHL caliber hockey. He would have been sent back to Junior last year where he belonged and would have started this year in Utica…where he belongs. They keep talking about him “playing the way we know he can” but he’s yet to prove he can play at the highest level so how can they keep saying that? It’s like they’re in some kind of pathological denial. Jake’s fragility and immaturity is what it is, but management has completely misread and mishandled him.

  • LTFan

    Two things about this move by the Canucks.

    1. JV will play a lot more and be able to show everyone that he is a good player.

    2. He will help Utica win some games.

    IMO JV will benefit from playing some games in Utica. Last season that is where he should have been but could not be sent there as he was underage. It was the NHL or back to Jr.

    I hope he will light it up in the NHl or least play well enough to be back with the Canucks by the end of the month. Work hard JV and we all look forward to seeing you back in the NHL.

  • Andy

    At this point, being down in Utica may help protect him from the virulent ‘losing culture’ that Benning and co, claimed would not happened if they tried staying competitive.

    Not looking the best. 🙁