The Vancouver Canucks finally did today what many felt they should’ve done much sooner.
No, not rebuild.
They sent Jake Virtanen to the AHL.
Virtanen has been a healthy scratch in Vancouver’s last two games, including last night’s slump-busting victory over the Rangers.
Virtanen’s development has been watched closely since the Canucks drafted him sixth overall in 2014. Their new general manger at the time, Jim Benning, passed on the likes of William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers to select a player with the physical assets to become a power forward in the NHL.
But it has not been a smooth ride in that regard. In the wake of a bumpy rookie campaign, the 20-year-old winger has no goals and just one assist in 10 games this season. Along the way, questions have been raised about his attitude and commitment.
Benning said today that Virtanen will only play a couple of games for the Utica Comets, on Friday and Saturday, and then he’ll return to the Canucks.
A couple of weeks ago, Virtanen made waves when he publicly complained about a lack of ice time. He also suggested he hadn’t had the chance to develop any chemistry with his linemates, since the lines were constantly changing as the Canucks struggled to score.
Ice time shouldn’t be an issue in Utica. He’ll play big minutes down there, where the organization hopes he can regain some confidence.
“Sometimes, our market looks down on us when we send a player down,” Benning said, per The Province’s Ben Kuzma. “Jake will get games, hopefully take off from there.”
To be sure, Virtanen has shown flashes of potential in the NHL, just not consistently enough for the Canucks’ liking.
The Canucks finish their six-game road trip tomorrow in Detroit. They kick off a four-game home stand Sunday against Dallas.