2:57pm: GM Jim Benning told reporters, including Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province, that Virtanen will play on Friday and Saturday with Utica, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, and will then be recalled back to the NHL.
While Virtanen has been mostly ineffective this season (as has most of the Canucks roster), it’s surprising that the team would send their young prospect down just ten games into the season, after seeing him play 55 games with the club a season ago. The team has given him barely any ice time this season, leading Virtanen to question Willie Desjardins’ decision to keep him on the fourth line.
Drafted sixth overall in 2014, Virtanen hasn’t become the top player that Vancouver had hoped. While other top picks from that draft are finding success across the league – namely William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers, drafted 8th and 9th respectively – Virtanen has yet to find his stride in the NHL.
It’s way too early to make a claim of “bust” for Virtanen, who only turned 20 on August 17th of this year, but for a team like Vancouver who are stuck somewhere between trying to compete and trying to rebuild, it would be a huge boost if he could find his offensive game. Now, he’ll have to look in the minors, a place that is totally unfamiliar to him. Virtanen has only played two games in the AHL in his career.