Since World Juniors disappointment, Virtanen has been ‘a different player’ for Canucks

AP
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Remember when Jake Virtanen returned from the World Juniors in Finland and there was that big controversy in Vancouver over the headline in the local tabloid that read “Goat-medal winner”?

Well, it’s only been a couple of months since then, but opinions about the big, 19-year-old winger have improved considerably.

“I don’t know what happened there, but when he came back, for me, he was a different player,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told Postmedia.

Not only has Virtanen scored five times in 22 games since Canada’s disappointing finish in Helsinki, he’s been defensively responsible and physically engaged, mixing it up with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Kesler, and Drew Doughty.

Wednesday night against Arizona, he leveled the Coyotes’ Connor Murphy:

That same game, he played a season-high 16:55 and assisted on the overtime winner by Markus Granlund:

In other words, Virtanen is starting to emerge into the kind of player the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him sixth overall in 2014.

“I want to be a guy that’s just a hard, honest player,” he told PHT recently. “Coming back from World Juniors…it’s nice to have the coach’s confidence in me to trust me. I felt management trusted me, so it was nice to come back and start to produce slowly. I’ve got to keep on doing that.”