Vancouver Canucks F Jake Virtanen Assigned to Utica Comets

After making him a healthy scratch for the last two games, the Vancouver Canucks sent Jake Virtanen to the Utica Comets Wednesday.

No one could quite figure out what the Vancouver Canucks were planning to do with Jake Virtanen.

He made the Canucks out of training camp despite injuring his shoulder in the preseason.

Yet head coach Willie Desjardins did not appear to trust Virtanen to play. He kept the 20-year-old on the third, and sometimes the fourth, line. Willie also often benched him in third periods.

The situation has grown worse on the team’s six game road trip. In the first game against the Montreal Canadiens he played only 7:13. Against the Ottawa Senators, he played 8:33.

Virtanen’s minutes did increase to over 10 minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet the Canucks coach sat him for the next two games, in favor of Jack Skille and Michael Chaput.

Before last night’s game against the New York Rangers, he addressed being a healthy scratch. He sounded frustrated, disappointed, maybe even a little baffled:

The fanbase has debated how the Canucks should handle Virtanen for the last few weeks. Even TCW writers disagreed on where he should be: the Canucks or the Utica Comets?

The Canucks Make a Call on Virtanen

Today, the team ended the debates, at least for the time being:

I think I speak for many when I say: it’s about time.

Jake Virtanen can help the Canucks now, but he is also a young player who needs to develop for the future.

At this stage of his career, the worst possible thing would be to keep him in the NHL but sit him in the press box. He needs to play, and play a lot. Where he plays is secondary.

It became clear over the last few weeks that he would not get a chance to play enough in the NHL. Whether deserved or not, the coach does not trust Virtanen enough to play him consistently right now.

The Canucks might be give up something by sending him down to the AHL. But long-term, this is the best move.

Not everyone agrees with Jim Benning selecting the Abbostford native 6th overall. Regardless, he carries a lot of expectations on his shoulders. It’s hard to be an effective NHL player at the best of times — try carrying the hopes of a franchise on your shoulders.

Granted, the stint will only be a short one:

Still, it’s a good start. Get him away from the Vancouver media for a while. Let him forget the expectations and find his game again.

Just let him play.

This probably will not be the last time Virtanen will be sent down. He is only 20 years old, after all. There is a lot he still has to learn to become an NHL power forward.

For now, the Vancouver Canucks are doing the right thing.

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