It’s been a tough few weeks for Jake Virtanen but he could still very easily impact the Canucks lineup.
As always, there’s a whipping boy on the Canucks roster. We just saw Virtanen have a lousy two week training camp in which he lost his job to Zack MacEwen and/or Micheal Ferland.
A full Jake Virtanen shift. pic.twitter.com/9shjODUHSs
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🤙🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) July 25, 2020
The local boy scored 18 goals this season. At times this season he was a very impactful player, even getting an extended look alongside JT Miller and Elias Pettersson on the first scoring line. He increased the advanced scoring stats while having a not so nice 6.9 on-ice shooting percentage. That’s almost half the OISH% that Miller and Pettersson had when they had a different right-winger with them.
Right now it looks as Virtanen will be on the outside looking in. A healthy Micheal Ferland is a better option on the third line and Travis Green’s fourth line needs to feature three penalty killers with the way this forward group is structured.
There are two ways I see Virtanen getting into the lineup.
Roussel’s game takes a step back in the playoffs
We all know how close a playoff series can be and with a best of five format, head coach Travis Green will have to make the right snap decisions to give his team the best chance to win. One of those may be moving Ferland to Roussel’s spot and throwing Virtanen in to play on that line.
Roussel’s game fell off a bit near the end of the season as he mentioned in a zoom call that his knee may have not been 100% when he returned in the middle part of the season.
If Roussel is not making an impact on that third line, Green should explore the option of throwing Jake in and moving Ferland to the left side. If you want to look at the positives of a Virtanen healthy scratch–one of them has to be that he could come back extremely motivated to make an impact in the series and throughout the playoffs.
That version of a motivated Virtanen in the playoffs is what many fans hoped we would see when Benning drafted him back in 2014.
Ferland just can’t keep up with the NHL pace
Yes, Ferland has been excellent throughout training camp and is probably the biggest surprise from training camp. He looks like he will be able to be an impact player and talked about his brain being in much better condition than it was back on Valentine’s day when he played that one period with the Utica Comets.
“Going into summer before going home we didn’t have ice for two months, that was the best thing for me. I kept pushing and pushing and wasn’t giving myself enough rest. The two months off was what I needed. I haven’t had any symptoms now.”
He also talked about the physical parts of the game not being the problem. The problem is the fast movements and though you can attempt to simulate it in practice, there is still another gear that you have to get to in an NHL game.
If Ferland isn’t able to compete then Virtanen could be an option to hop into the lineup.
The question with this situation is whether not MacEwen has won that spot over Virtanen and is Virtanen now considered the 14th forward on the depth chart.
This is very possible, MacEwen was playing over Virtanen before Ferland took over the third line right winger spot. MacEwen was absent from practice on Saturday before the Canucks left to Edmonton and when coach Green was asked about what he can tell us about MacEwen’s absence he simply replied with “Not much”.
Virtanen helps the Canucks score goals
Though he can be a defensive liability, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the Canucks are a better scoring team with Virtanen in the lineup. Virtanen scored 18 goals this season and drastically improved the powerplay when he was added to the second unit.
Here are some stats from the second powerplay unit with and without Jake Virtanen.
He had a bad camp and didn’t go take the job that was rightfully his.
Canucks fans must know by now that training camps aren’t Virtanen’s forte. He’s probably the first professional hockey player to strikeout at two training camps in one season.
Virtanen can be an effective thirteenth forward to this Canucks team and just because he’s down in the dumps right now doesn’t mean he can’t come into a playoff series and be an impact player. Injuries happen and coaches will be under the magnifying glass to make quick decisions to give their team the best chance to win.
Sending Virtanen into the lineup might be one of the decisions that make Green look like a genius.
Green seems like he understands what makes Virtanen tick.
Let’s see what happens.