Player: Jake Virtanen
Drafted By: Vancouver Canucks (6th overall)
Position: Left Wing/Center
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 6 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'1'', 210 lbs
DOB: August 17, 1996 (17 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: WHL, Calgary Hitmen
Jake Virtanen has been a highly rated prospect since 2011, when the Calgary Hitmen selected him first overall in the WHL Bantam draft. He made his debut with the team during the 2011-12 season, skating in nine regular-season games and compiling three goals and four PIMs.
The Abbotsford, British Columbia native also appeared in five playoff games for Calgary, going pointless through four contests. Virtanen was a full-time member of the Hitmen for the 2012-13 season and started to show flashes of the skill that would eventually make him one of the top prospects available in 2014.
He produced 34 points while continuing to show a bit of a mean streak. By the time this season rolled around, Virtanen had cemented his reputation as a blossoming power forward capable of changing the course of a game with his physicality of his high-end skill.
Full Scouting Report
The 2014 draft might eventually be remembered as one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. There might not be a lot of game-breaking talents out there, but a high number of forwards have a good chance at becoming regular NHL contributors.
Despite this depth, Virtanen might be the most intriguing youngster available. His blend of speed, size and skill is tantalizing, to say the least. He scored 71 points, 45 goals and racked up 100 PIMs this season, and scouts love him for his skill set.
TSN's Craig Button has this to say about the forward:
Jake has undeniable skill. Excellent skater who has speed, quickness and power. Can beat defenders with his skating and when he gets an advantage, his size makes it almost impossible for a defender to get back on equal footing. Very strong shot and can beat goaltenders from out but also has the quickness in his hands to score in tight. Has the potential to be a dynamic scoring winger.
Wingers that can drive to the net and score in a variety of ways are rare in the NHL. Only a handful of forwards fit that mold. His upside might not be quite as high as some of the forwards that went before him, but there's still a lot to like about Virtanen's combination of size and skill.
NHL Player Comparison
Ryan Pike from TheHockeyWriters.com sees Virtanen as a Darcy Tucker-esque forward. Pike notes that the two are similar in size and had similar levels of production at the junior level. Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News believes that Virtanen's upside is even higher, comparing him to Jarome Iginla.
While Virtanen has the size to compete in the NHL right now, he needs to tighten up all facets of his game to be an impact, top-six forward. There's no reason to rush him along for the upcoming season, so the earliest we should see Virtanen is 2015-16. That said, he is considered one of the more NHL-ready players, so we could see him sooner.
Kennedy doesn't just see a Iginla-type of forward in Virtanen. He thinks that he could match the future Hall of Famer in his prime. There's your absolute top-end potential. Forty goals, big hits and a high PIM count.