When he was selected first overall by the Calgary Hitmen at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, there was little doubt that Jake Virtanen was a player who would arrive in the WHL with a prototypical “full tool kit”.
Honored by the publication Hockey Now as the 2011 Minor Hockey Player of the Year in British Columbia, Virtanen was dominant that season as a member of the Abbotsford AAA Hawks, collecting 68 goals and 49 assists in 59 games. His coach at the time, Brad Bowen, spoke highly of Virtanen’s skills.
“Firstly, he’s a big kid for his age and I think he’ll grow even more,” Bowen told this writer. “He is a great skater, a real quick step and a powerful stride. Jake is very creative offensively, maybe too much sometimes. But he shoots the puck well, probably a couple of years ahead of many players his age. Those two skills, I haven’t seen anyone better in his age group.”
Virtanen, now 17, has also been a beneficiary of his experiences at the Yale Hockey Academy, where the likes of Shea Theodore (ANA) honed his skills. Current WHL players Matt Revel (2014) of the Kamloops Blazers and Mackenzie Skapski (NYR) are also YHA alumni.
Fast forward to the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary and Virtanen finds himself comfortably among the top juniors in Canada. Listed ninth overall in the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking of North American Skaters, Virtanen has certainly delivered on the promise he showed during his minor hockey days.
With the Hitmen, Virtanen scored 16 times and added 18 assists in 62 games as a rookie. This year, he has 42 points in 43 games and leads the Hitmen with 26 goals. He has 11 multi-point games this season.
Calgary coach Mike Williamson is also bullish on Virtanen’s skills.
“Jake is a skilled power forward that has great acceleration, a hard shot and quick release. He is very strong on his skates and is hard to knock off the puck.”
Indeed, at 6’1” and 210 pounds, Virtanen is a load. The native of Abbotsford, BC has dual citizenship, Canadian and Finnish. Well-spoken and exuberant, his high-energy persona has been evident during interactions with the media at the Top Prospects Game.
Virtanen is definitely on the Hockey Canada radar, having played for Team Pacific at the 2013 World U17 Hockey Challenge and for Team Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
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