McKenzie: Why Canucks took Virtanen over Nylander/Ellers
When the Vancouver Canucks dressed elite prospect Jake Virtanen at the start of the season, expectations were high.
Taken ahead of breakout stars like William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers, Vancouver’s first around pick from 2014 has essentially been banished to the AHL this season, and has struggled to be a top six forward even in the farm system.
Bob McKenzie spoke with TSN 1040 about Virtanen and another young prospect for the Canucks, Brock Boeser.
Despite an NHL debut by Boeser that saw the 20-year-old score his first NHL goal, a game winner over the Minnesota Wild, some fans are a bit leery of putting all their faith in newly signed prospects because of how Virtanen turned out.
Asked about Virtanen, McKenzie said his struggles could come down to maturity, both as a player and as a professional, and the only way to handle it is on a “case by case basis”.
McKenzie explained why the Canucks took Virtanen over some of his more successful peers saying, “Even at the time when the Canucks took Virtanen there was great debate as to whether they should have gone down the power route versus the skill route. Everyone knew that Nylander and Ehlers were more skilled than Virtanen at the time, but the Canucks were interested in getting a straight-line, big, physical presence that could be a beast on the forecheck”.
McKenzie continued, “This is not hindsight saying they should have taken Ehlers or Nylander, that was very much the school of thought of a lot of people at that time”.
Canucks management thought the team was set on skill, and needed grit. It turns out that the team is lacking in both departments, and unfortunately Virtanen has been unable to deliver either so far.