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(Discussion) Did the Canucks ruin Jake Virtanen's development by gifting him a spot on the team?

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Lets start with the draft. The top 5 picks of the 2017 draft were pretty much a lock, then we had the Canucks at #6. Canucks fans wanted either Virtanen, Ehlers, Nylander, or Ritchie if I recall. Canucks take Virtanen because of the package he brings, skating is his biggest attribute, but there was also his shot and physicality. What the scouts said his biggest weakness was is his Hockey IQ, which you could see a little bit in his draft year stats (only 26 assists in 71 games). Now, if there are only two things that scouts are allowed to look at to determine whether a hockey player has what it takes, it's skating (check!) and hockey IQ (big fat nope). But that's okay, maybe a lightbulb will go off in his head when he turns pro and gets better coaching. 

 

In his draft plus one year he puts similar numbers, assists go up and that's about it. I'm not sure if the Hitmen were worse that year or not. But I think this was the first red flag, no growth in the numbers. Do you think a 5th round pick who puts up around the same point-per-game numbers would get a second look by the team that drafted him? I think not. He does however have a pretty good World Juniors that year on a stacked team with McDavid.

 

Next year is the year he makes the team along with fellow first rounder McCann. Yes, the team was horrible, and yes, the fan base was starved to watch some young talent finally. But I just can't help but believe that those two players made the team just based on that second reason. Virtanen gets 13 points in 55 games, obviously not Calder winning numbers or even super impressive numbers, but at least he contributed somewhat on a horrible team and power forwards do take longer to groom, that's fine. What was concerning that year was Virtanen's World Junior performance that year. If you're an NHL player playing in a tournament with teenagers playing against other teenagers for the most part, you are expected to dominate, and most NHL junior players have indeed dominated and were leaders (Barret Hayden and Maxime Comtois for example). Again, you're playing in the NHL but you can't even stand out among your own age group playing multiple of tiers down. This is when I believed Jake should have been sent down for his final junior year, I know it would have burned a year on his ELC but hey, you made a wrong decision, best rectify it. But nope, Jake plays out his year on the Canucks.

 

The next season Jake plays pretty much full time in the AHL. I can't say I've ever seen a young player play a full NHL season, and then a full AHL season without a lockout. It's not like the Canucks were any better (You could maybe argue worst). Jake puts up 19 points in 65 AHL games, no where near good enough to play in the NHL. Lind and Gadjovich put up similar number in their first AHL years, but stayed and now they're pretty much PPG players at that level. Again, you should be able to DOMINATE the level you are playing at before you should move up.

 

Now we come to the 2018 NHL season where Jake becomes a mainstay on the Canucks, I don't 100% remember but I'm willing to bet money that he played pretty much every single pre-season game. I can't remember him doing anything special to make the team but he did it anyways. Jake puts up very similar numbers from his first season a couple years back (again, where's the growth? You're two years older now).

 

As the seasons go by, Jake showed flashes of his potential but couldn't make it consistent. His lack of hockey smarts was very evident as he was just a giveaway waiting to happen. Maybe gifted him a roster spot early in his career was the worst thing that could happen. Maybe he got complacent and decided not to work hard to get better (He did show up to training camp fat... Twice.) I was on the Jake Virtanen hype train for the longest time up until this season, and that included the bubble playoffs where he was invisible most of the time. Benning pinned this year's success so much on Virtanen and Gaudette taking strides in their development, instead they went backwards and are now no longer on the team.

 

So, in your opinion do you think the Canucks could have done better to alter Jake's development, or do you think he was a lost cause from the get-go and we all just didn't know it yet? Or perhaps he'll explode and become the player we all hoped he'd be on a different team?

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I don't think they did, he was a risk since he was drafted, simply because of his shoulder surgery. 

We saw Jake struggle numerous times after the draft:

- his production in Calgary his following season was nearly the same as the year before, except half the goal production.

- He struggled in the WJC, even after being an NHLer for most of the year (1 point)

- He hardly produced in a full season of the AHL

- He came to camp 20 pounds overweight (by 25 pounds or so)

- In the 2019-20 playoffs 

- In the entire 2020-21 regular season

Perhaps another year in the WHL would've been okay, but the year after his draft year didn't seem to help him either. The Canucks recognized their mistake in rushing him and gave him an entire season in the AHL, where he also struggled significantly. 

At the end of the day, I think Jake was his own worst enemy. I think he never got a chance to mature after being drafted by his hometown team. Imagine being one of the most popular guys in your own city, you'd feel untouchable. He had money and fame, and things kind've got away from him. 

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they ruined his development by always giving the stick and never giving the carrot.  He improved every year, despite being given unfavourable icetime and starts.  He never complained, he just went out and did what they asked him to do and was never, ever rewarded.  I like Green, but he ruined what could have been a dominant player

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This is what they thought they had. Unfortunately, almost none of this came to fruition and I don't think a different development path would have changed a damn thing. Jake owns this.

 

A formidable adversary for any challenger, Jake Virtanen is an imposing power forward in the truest sense. Possesses a non-stopping motor and creates an abundance of on-ice energy when throwing his weight around and establishing his physical presence. Exhibits world-class skating ability, and can blow by defenders just as easily as he can go through them. Stands up for his teammates and never backs down from a challenge. Displays a wicked, NHL-level release that challenges goaltenders of all skill levels. Becoming a recognizable asset when playing a more defensive role as well. All-in-all, a physical power forward that has the character traits, work ethic, and individual skills to pose a threat to whoever stands in his way

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No Benning was desperate on drafting a BC boy on his first draft to appease the fans.  He was a bigger faster stronger player in the WHL and that doesn’t translate to the nhl

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3 minutes ago, stawns said:

they ruined his development by always giving the stick and never giving the carrot.  He improved every year, despite being given unfavourable icetime and starts.  He never complained, he just went out and did what they asked him to do and was never, ever rewarded.  I like Green, but he ruined what could have been a dominant player

Not a chance. Kid had 9 lives. Gifted top 6 minutes in a-lot of games. Hell they had him on the first line to start the year 

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1 minute ago, Devron44 said:

Not a chance. Kid had 9 lives. Gifted top 6 minutes in a-lot of games. Hell they had him on the first line to start the year 

he wasn't gifted anything.  A couple shifts in the top 6, then back to the doghouse.  Green ruined him, you have to reward players and Jake had 3 seasons of 20 goal pace over 82 games and was never given a sniff of consistent top 6 time.

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Do I think Jake could have used another year of Junior? Possibly, but I think there was a character flaw, already in place.

 

Something I've noticed, a kid that's big and strong and has an easier time in Junior, against smaller competition, sometimes seems to have trouble adjusting the the NHL and to guys who can handle themselves and that he can no longer intimidate. I think this might have been something with Jake that he could never reconcile in his game. Just speculation and my opinion of course.

 

 

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Jake was barely a PPG in the juniors, and that was likely a product of him being bigger and stronger than his peers at the same age.  To this day I'm still not sure why people expected him to have huge numbers in the NHL.  To me he was always gonna be a middle 6 forward.

 

His on ice attitude and off ice issues just made things even worse for him.

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2 minutes ago, stawns said:

he wasn't gifted anything.  A couple shifts in the top 6, then back to the doghouse.  Green ruined him, you have to reward players and Jake had 3 seasons of 20 goal pace over 82 games and was never given a sniff of consistent top 6 time.

If you can’t be an effective player on the third of 4th line then why? So Many chances, so many! Throw a couple hits Jake. Drive the net, you can fly. Create some energy for your team. Nothing. He would do that one game and disappear for 10. Even playing 12 minutes a night.

 

This is a Jake problem, always was.

 

He had 9 goals in 65 AHL games :picard:

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23 minutes ago, Devron44 said:

Except he is bigger and faster then a lot of NHL players. He just lacked drive and determination 

He’s not going to use his size and strength with lack of talent to dominate the nhl.  You need more than speed and strength.

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