Sports

Canucks 2014 training camp in Whistler; Jake Virtanen ranked 7th by International Scouting

Zack Kassian and Henrik Sedin share a laugh before during practice in 2012, when the Vancouver Canucks were on their way to a second straight Presidents
Zack Kassian and Henrik Sedin share a laugh before during practice in 2012, when the Vancouver Canucks were on their way to a second straight Presidents' Trophy.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (author Loxy!!)

The Vancouver Canucks are holding their training camp for 2014 in Whistler, B.C., from Sept. 19-22.

While there, the Canuck's practices and on-ice sessions will be open and viewable to the public, who can attend for free at Whistler's Meadow Park Sports Centre, located north of the Village and just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway 99.

Recently, the team has held its training camps in various spots around British Columbia, in Victoria, Courtenay, Powell River, Duncan, Parksville, Kamloops, Vernon, and Whistler as well.

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Jake Virtanen

In its ongoing run-up to the 2014 NHL Draft – where Vancouver will pick sixth overall in Philadelphia – the blog crew at Canucks.com on Thursday featured Abbotsford's Jake Virtanen.

Virtanen, a power forward and Canadian international junior star who plays for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, is ranked 7th overall by the International Scouting Service.

(We have featured Virtanen before as well, in articles by Dan Kinvig of the Abbotsford News.)

In April, the shifty, sharp-shooting Virtanen was ranked 6th overall by Central Scouting. The 6'1, 210-pound winger will no doubt have a flock of local fans hoping the Canucks draft him, a move which would keep him in the Lower Mainland.

Virtanen, a right-handed player who thrives when playing in and off-contact, has been compared to NHL players from Jarome Iginla to Blake Wheeler and Joffrey Lupul.

"Perhaps one of the most debated prospects among Canucks fans this season. I can't see how he wouldn't fit in Vancouver, or any team for that matter," writes Canucks.com's Tyson Giurato.

"He can skate, hit, fight, and put the puck in the net. Pair him with a playmaking centre and you get a deadly 1-2 punch. His hockey sense has been put to question, but that's something that he can develop over time. Come playoff time, Virtanen is someone you want on your team."

Nevertheless, despite the praise from some and his point totals – 71 points and 45 goals in 71 games last season with Calgary – Virtanen has been a polarizing prospect for some scouts.

While TSN analyst Craig Button had high praise for the Abbotsford product –calling him a "grand slam player all teams would love to get" – he also had him ranked a lowly No. 43 in his last rankings, published on June 3, 2014.

Virtanen was recently interviewed by Canucks president Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning at the NHL's Draft combine.

"It would be pretty cool, obviously, to play in front of my family and friends (in Vancouver)," he said in May, after the combine. "They could come and watch and it would be amazing. There is a good atmosphere at the games in Vancouver and they have some pretty great fans so I think it would be great for me to play there.

"Obviously it's getting closer to the draft now and it's getting really exciting. I guess I'll just see what happens when I get there. But, I mean, I'll be happy to be drafted by any team."

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