By John Vogl
Position: Left wing
Junior team: Calgary (WHL)
Born: New Westminster, British Columbia
Measurables: 6-foot, 208 pounds
2013-14 stats: 71 games, 45 goals, 26 assists, 71 points
Central Scouting rank: No. 6 (North America)
Lowdown: When the top prospects gather, someone has to be the fastest. At this year’s Canadian Hockey League gala, it was Virtanen. The swift-skating winger won the 30-meter sprint and the 30-meter backward skate. It’s fitting because defenders can’t tell whether he’s coming or going.
The one-time first overall pick in the Western Hockey League draft found his groove this season. His goal total exploded from 16 to 45 as he began to welcome the expectations. He already has an NHL frame, which makes it difficult for junior defenders to play the body. Plus, Virtanen isn’t shy about initiating the contact.
His fondness for physicality can result in untimely penalties. He still has to work on his defensive game. The dual citizen of Canada and Finland had major shoulder surgery this spring, and it will keep him out for up to six months. It shouldn’t impact his draft status because he wasn’t turning pro this year anyway.
He said it: “I’m a power forward that can shoot the puck. I think I’m a guy that can play physical and make big hits, make room for my teammates, try to be a leader.” – Virtanen.
The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft, which begins June 27.