Former first overall pick in the 2011 WHL Draft, Jake Virtanen is likely my favourite non-center forward prospect within the Leafs range come the end of next month. While an imperfect prospect, the 6-foot-1, 209-pound Virtanen adds NHL-level tools for teams looking for goal-scoring ability. When asked to paint a picture of the Calgary Hitmen forward, ‘speed’ and ‘mean’ are front and center with the goal-scoring winger. He explodes into top speed with a quick first few strides, with an ability to beat defenders wide or burst into open scoring pockets. Utilizing his speed, he has a tendency to absolutely destroy opponents in open ice or on the forecheck when so inclined. What earns Virtanen his top prospect status, however, is his ability to score goals with a high-end release, evidenced in the 45 he scored in 71 games this past season, placing him among the WHL’s Top 10. However, as with almost all young players, there are question marks and weaknesses. While a strong and quick player, he isn’t a polished player away from the puck, and often adds little when the puck is not on his stick. He’s not one to consistently go into corners and grind in order to retrieve possession. He’s a rush-first player who is able to pick corners with absolute ease, but just how effectively will the offense translate at the next level? Shoulder surgery wiping out his draft combine, off-season training and start to next season may hurt his draft position. Virtanen played the end of the WHL regular season, the WHL playoffs, and the U18 World Championships (6 points in 7 games) with the injury. There’s both risk and ample upside here with one of the youngest players in the 2014 draft class.
– Brian Huddle
Jake Virtanen Highlights
Jake Virtanen Statistics
|2010-11||Abbotsford Hawks Bantam A1||PCBHL||59||68||49||117||-||||
|Yale Secondary Lions Blue||BCHSHL||1||1||1||2||0||||
|2011-12||Fraser Valley Bruins||BCMML||39||17||22||39||120||||
|Canada Pacific U17||WHC-17||5||5||2||7||8||||
|2011-12||Team British Columbia||WCCC-16||4||5||0||5||-||||
|BCMML Sabres 1||U17 Cup||-||-||-||-||-||||
|Canada U18||Hlinka Memorial||5||0||1||1||4||-2||||
Speed – Big man speed with acceleration, agility, balance. Won the 30 metre sprint, backward and forward, at the CHL Top Prospects game.
Shot – Big gun, quick finger, hits target, penetrates net.
Power forward – Jake Virtanen has the size, skating, drive and physicality teams look for in a power forward – Jake is probably the purest power forward in the draft.
Improvements to make – Judging by his performance in January (13 goals and 20 points in 14 games), Jake has already come a long way. However, he should continue to work on using his teammates better, push for excellence in his defensive work and exert his physicality on a constant basis to win puck battles.
Draft placement – Most have Jake at or around the top 10 now but if he continues to produce at or improve upon his January pace he could go significantly higher because his size and physical skills are as elite as just about anyone in the draft. - mynhldraft.com