NHL Central Scouting Rank: 6th
Jake Virtanen has a blistering shot, NHL size, and is one of the best skaters in the draft. It's a tantalizing package, and will be sufficient for the Abbotsford, B.C., native to hear his name called with one of the first 10 picks at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
In terms of his goal scoring, Virtanen had a monster season as a first year draft-eligible skater on a juggernaut Calgary Hitmen side. The big forward managed 45 goals, posting the third-best goals per game rate among first time draft-eligible CHL forwards (tied with Sam Bennett, and behind only Robbi Fabbri and Nikolaj Ehlers).
The thing that's most impressive about Virtanen's goal-scoring totals, however, is how often he found the back of the net at even strength. Among first time draft-eligible skaters, no CHL player scored as many goals as Virtanen did at five-on-five (32).
If there's a concern with Virtanen, it has to do with the extreme likelihood that his goal totals were percentage inflated (the Hitmen were a brutal puck possession team by shot differential, despite their 48-win season). Also, his most common linemates were overagers like Brady Brassart, or 2013 New York Rangers draft pick Adam Tambellini. How much was Virtanen driving the bus with polished players like that?
One particular area of concern on this front: Virtanen finished the season third among his own teammates in scoring. Virtanen is as toolsy as they come, but there are other prospects that played a bigger role, on better teams, than he did in his draft-eligible season.
Scouts are saying
Virtanen is an all-engines-go type of player who put up a ton of goals in his second WHL season. His best attribute is his skating, and he may be the best skater in this draft class ... He forechecks well, hustles to get his defensive assignments and plays hard on the penalty kill.
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.
Loaded with some of the best physical tools in this year's entire class. He's a tremendous skater with speed, balance, terrific agility for a big man, and an explosive initial burst. Also has a rifle shot with a lightning release. Has the size to drive through defenders, but needs to use his size to better advantage.
Virtanen can fight:
And he can score:
Feature photo courtesy of Getty/Derek Leung