The Vancouver Canucks have recalled forward Mike Zalewski from AHL Utica. To make room on the roster, they’ve placed defenseman Chris Tanev on injured reserve (lower body).
With Zalelwski recalled, the Canucks now have an extra forward, and that’s somewhat noteworthy after 20-year-old winger Jake Virtanen aired some grievances yesterday.
The way Virtanen sees it, he hasn’t been able to get in a groove this season because he hasn’t played enough with the same linemates.
“The lines have been changed pretty much every day and you like to have good chemistry with your linemates. And with Bo (Horvat) and Baertsch (Sven Baertschi), we do have good chemistry,” Virtanen told reporters Wednesday, per the Vancouver Sun. “But when we’re switched around a lot, it’s hard to get going, but I just have to suck it up and play my game every night. But it’s hard to keep it going.”
Virtanen, the sixth overall draft pick in 2014, made the Canucks out of training camp, in part because of an injury to winger Anton Rodin. At the time, GM Jim Benning warned that, should Virtanen’s play fail to meet an NHL standard, the AHL could be an option down the road.
In five games this season, Virtanen has no points and is averaging just 9:56 of ice time. His most common linemates have been Horvat and Baertschi, but he was on the fourth line in Tuesday’s disappointing loss to Ottawa, and he barely saw the ice in the third period.
Head coach Willie Desjardins told TSN 1040 radio this morning that Zalewski is unlikely to play, unless there’s an injury, so don’t expect Virtanen to sit Friday against the Oilers. But the situation will be monitored closely in Vancouver, because Virtanen has yet to meet the standard that’s been set for him.
“I think Jake maybe is a little frustrated with things, so I understand that,” said Desjardins. “I think with his game, there’s certain expectations we have. … I think Jake has the talent to be a top-nine (forward) for sure, even a top-six. He could be a power forward. He’s got power, he can shoot the puck, he goes to the net, he’s got lots to his game that makes him a good player.
“But obviously if he was doing all those things right now, I’d be playing him more and he’d be playing up the lineup with regular players.”
Desjardins added that there have been “numerous” conversations with Virtanen about expectations, and that if Virtanen isn’t “pushing himself” in Vancouver, “then maybe he does have to get ice time some place else,” i.e. in Utica.
But for now, Virtanen still has a chance to stick in the NHL. It’s up to him whether he remains, said Desjardins.