Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Can Virtanen learn from Ferland next season?

Some NHL player archetypes have changed little since the leagues’s inception: the speedy goal-scoring winger, the high-IQ centre, the slow-moving but methodical defenceman; but the Canucks have two somewhat similar players on their roster for the upcoming season that share a similar profile.

Both Jake Virtanen and free-agent signing Micheal Ferland are the type of wingers that an organization can live or die by. With edge in their game but also an eye for the net, these two forwards want to score  goals but also leave their opponent wishing to never face them again.

They can bring the elements of old and new hockey together in a stylistic and fashionable combination that makes you show up to the rink knowing something could happen any second. Whether it’s Ferland going in for a hard one-timer against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or Virtanen getting the better of someone in a fight, there’s always something going on with these two throughout the season.

There’s certainly enough room for these two to play their own game in the Canucks’ lineup, but creating space on the ice for their respective linemates as the season progresses is an attribute both players are likely to share. They might start and end with different roles on this roster – Ferland more likely to be in the top-six than Virtanen – but their roles and duties will most likely be the same.

Is it possible Virtanen could learn and develop further by emulating a similar winger four years his senior?

The games played don’t exactly match up — Ferland has 321 under his belt, while Virtanen isn’t far behind with 210 — but the Canucks sixth-overall pick just finished his fourth season with at least some experience in the NHL, when at his age, Ferland was just wrapping up his short debut season with the Calgary Flames.

What Ferland can demonstrate is that there is a clear path for a player like Virtanen to become a 20-goal scorer. He’s not a perfect player by any means, but if Virtanen were to develop into the type of player Ferland can be at peak performance, that would be a win for the Canucks.

The new Canuck is someone that can play up the lineup and benefit from better players on their line. He’s played a significant amount of time with elite players like Sebastian Aho in Carolina and Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary, and didn’t look out of place. He definitely played better with them than he did without them, but that shouldn’t be considered a knock on the player he is.

It’s a legitimate skill to be able keep up with some of the best players in all of hockey. If some of that ability spreads to Virtanen, he might not be shuffled around the lineup so much like he did last year.

One benefit that he does have is his youth. There’s still a couple years to fully discover what type of player he is and hopefully the development staff can help him become that Ferland-esque player. But seeing Ferland on the ice while he’s sitting by the sidelines and — hopefully — scoring some goals alongside Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson would set enough of an example for the younger winger.

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Hit some guys, create some space, and go hard to the net to shoot the puck basically standing right on top of the goaltender — maybe then Virtanen could have a 20-goal season.

  • DogBreath

    Love the idea of him learning from a player like Ferland. I sometimes wonder if Jake it just too nice to adopt that role that people (including myself) hope that he’ll become. If he can evolve this way, I like the grit that the forward group has to be successful in the playoffs, should they get there this year or next.

  • Rolland

    Can you learn to play with an edge and develop a bit of a chip on one’s shoulder? I have my doubts. Jake has all the tools but lacks the Motte motor and the Ferland mean streak.

  • J-Canuck

    I always had high hopes for Jake. He is bid and fast and has a hard shot, but he can’t put everything together for long stretches.
    In a lot of sports, guys like Jake dominated as armatures through pure physical ability. Hopefully having a guy like Ferland to explain what he sees and how he reacts will be more of a benefit than just watching tape.

  • Hockey Bunker

    For all the talk about skill and speed, hockey is primarily a game of emotion which adds energy.
    The new additions bring more emotion, and everyone benefits. It brings out the best in all players, especially young guys. They feed off it. Instead of an “energy line”, this year there Is energy on every line.

  • wojohowitz

    That`s a ridiculous comparison. Virtanen is big, fast and physical who can trash talk but won`t fight. Ferland is a player who skates into after the whistle scrums with every intention of punching someone out which gives him a reputation as a guy who intimidates people. Looking forward to Ferland against Tkachuk and Ferland against Reaves.

    • liqueur des fenetres

      Now that he’s gotten paid it’s just as likely that his objective heading into these scrums is to get stock tips or ideas about investment properties.

        • liqueur des fenetres

          He’s got well earned job- and retirement- security, not to mention a concussion history. He wouldn’t be the first guy to ease up by a degree or two after getting paid.

          • Defenceman Factory

            so window licker do you believe that applies to every player who signs a new contract or is there something about Ferland you think indicates he will slump into semi retirement?

            Or were you just adding a negative comment for the sake of being negative?

          • J-Canuck

            NHL athletes don’t just decide, “wipe of hands” I’m done! I believe Ferland will be 30-31 at the end of this contract? NHL players make a lot of money, BUT they also have a lot of expenses. Agents, lawyers, trainers etc… add in Canadian and BC taxes that big giant number gets smaller. Ferland will have the opportunity to get another contract, health permitting.

          • liqueur des fenetres

            I didn’t make it up, it’s essentially an NHL maxim: guy signs big contract, his point totals regress the next year. No one doubts that a guy will work extra hard during the year before his contract expires. Why is it so hard to believe that he may take his foot off the gas a wee bit comparatively after the ink is dry?

  • speering major

    It’s not out of line to compare the two players but it’s a bit overblown IMO

    I do think Jake has some upside still. His hockey IQ is very mediocre but he does have all the physical tools. If he figures out how he can be effective and gains a bit of confidence, he can make a pretty big jump in effectiveness. You would expect a guy like Jake to take a bit longer to figure the game out. He has also been playing on an abysmal team with weak linemates. He should be taking a step forward at his age but also he will be supported by better teammates.

    Ferland is just a different player. It’s not that Jake can’t learn from him but he’s never going to have that physical presence or play with that edge. He shouldn’t be focused on trying to replicate that either

    • Rodeobill

      I agree that Jake has to find his own style, but up until his rookie year he did play physically I thought (I admit I haven’t watched all his junior games) but seemed to get slagged for not being the right kind of physical and taking bad penalties. Maybe he lost his confidence in his judgement, hopefully he can sort it out.

  • Mtke

    I don’t get the comparison. Jakes biggest problem is that far too often he has large stretches where he doesn’t do much of anything. He doesn’t hit and his hockey sense is poor so he’s an ineffective passer, if he even passes. Too often than not his stick is where plays go to die. He may find a niche as a bottom six winger that can contribute but his indifference makes me have my doubts.

      • Mtke

        Really? I disagree. He doesn’t do enough on a game to game basis to convince me that he’ll be an NHL player over the long run. If this imaginary ceiling of his doesn’t magically appear then I could see him being traded and out of the NHL completely within the next few years.

        • Fred-65

          I tend to agree, Jake seems like a player who can’t string together the individual skills he might have. There are odd flashes when time space and opportunity collide but it’s infrequent. The rest of time he seems like he’s lost. The Israelites were lost in the wilderness for 40 years lets hope Jake can do it a little quicker LOL. This has to be a big year for Jake. His contract is up and frankly, it’s questionable if he brings enough warrant resigning period. At the turn of the year, there needs to be a decision on his future IMO. Bit of an enigma is Jake. One thing for sure there’s less enthusiastic support from fans like there was a year back 🙂

      • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning


        He’s a bottom 6 winger ONLY cause he’s been on a bottom 5 team his entire career. When this organization is done with him, he’ll be long gone from the NHL unless his light bulb ever decides to turn on and he figures out how to bring “it” a hell of a lot more often than he has his first 4yrs.

  • rediiis

    Jake has speed and skill, he just needs to work on finishing. His potential is higher than Ferland’s, but that doesn’t mean he will find it. I think he just needs to work on hand/stick/puck drills and a psychiatrist to work on his confidence. Passing drills are definitely needed. Ferland has some issues too, hopefully he isn’t exposed defensively. He gets his jock in a bunch when he gets burned.

  • Snoho

    Contrary to popular belief, JV is not a physical, wrecking ball, plays with an edge, energy player. He never has been. People like to think he’s that because he is big and fast. Ferland is not here to set an example for JV, he is here to make him expendable. Now that Benning has resigned he should be more secure than ever to admit his mistake and move JV out. His roster spot is needed for a player who can fill a role.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Ferland and Virtanen are roughly the same size and Jake is a better skater. One thing Jake is certain to notice is his paycheque is a lot smaller than Ferland’s.

    Jake doesn’t need to fight or have a mean streak like Ferland but he does have to up his intensity, drive the net and forecheck hard. Ferland is a good example of these things.

    Jake needs a new contract. If he wants more than one year and a salary that doesn’t start with the number 1 emulating some of what Ferland does would be a very good start.

  • oban

    I’m just glad that they didn’t trade Jake. His hockey sense does seem to improve a tiny bit each year and he is fun to watch because you never know when he is going to blow by his man and drive to the net with his incredible speed. For me, his speed is just as entertaining as Boeser’s wrist shot was in his rookie season.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Question: What if Ferland ends up regressing and becoming a shell of the player Canucks fans learned to despise as he jump checked everybody in that 2015 playoff series?

    It seems like a very legitimate question considering the amount of players who demonstrate significant regression the first year after signing long term deals. If this happens, then what? Are they back to Baertschi in the top 6? His long term health seems like a massive question mark. Goldy? Been there, seen that.

    Look how awful Jay Beagle & Tim Shaller were last year after signing their respective deals.

    Maybe Bennings glut of forwards ends up being the answer for this possibility?

  • Sandpaper

    It is always entertaining, reading or listening to people complain about how Jake has or isn’t a top 6 player.
    Draft pedigree aside, if Jake is a solid 3rd liner and can continually notch 15-20 goals, per season, then, I would be fine with that.
    We, as fans, continually give a player like Gaudette, who has shown very little, ample opportunity, because of his lower draft pedigree, many praises.
    Gaudette is 46 days younger than Jake, not sure why he is given so much slack, when Jake is given very little, amongst fans.
    IMO Jake very seldomly, played with top players and was used on the 3rd line, as the player to help drive some offense and play fairly sound defensively.
    Scoring 15 goals with Sutter or Gaudette as your primary centre and a various fringe nhl winger, is a decent accomplishment.
    Although, I do believe, this is a make or break year for Jake.

  • MrTrip Darren

    Jake, Horvat, and Ferland would be an unstoppable line. They could out-muscle all opponents and the opposition would be making constant mistakes worrying about getting hit. Virtanen would thrive playing with Ferland. He could go out hammering everyone with impunity.