The Vancouver Canucks appear to have a real battle underway at their pre play-ins Training Camp for the right wing spot next to Adam Gaudette on their third line. Today, head coach Travis Green demoted Jake Virtanen to an extra forward slot after a poor showing at the Canucks’ scrimmage on Thursday.
Unfortunately for the shotgun movement, this wasn’t Jake Virtanen’s worst defensive sequence of the first 25 minutes... https://t.co/99roIE9fGr— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) July 17, 2020
Saturday lines at #Canucks Camp:— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) July 18, 2020
Extras: Virtanen, Sutter
Virtanen is no stranger to Training Camp controversy. Back at the Canucks’ 2019 Training Camp, he found himself embarrassed to be practicing with the scrubs after reporting to Camp in less than peak physical condition.
Group C, to finish off Day 1 pic.twitter.com/vAXYpq5h8r— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) September 13, 2019
However, Virtanen shook off this early admonition from Green and went on to put up his most productive NHL numbers to-date, notching 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points in 69 games this season at the March Covid-19 pause.
While Thursday’s scrimmage was a noticeable hiccup for Shotgun Jake, Zack MacEwen scored a nice goal on Jacob Markstrom and was lauded for his solid two-way game.
MacEwen also produced his best NHL game yet just prior to the NHL shutting down. He scored two goals in an excellent overall performance and was named the first star of the game ahead of unsung hero J.T. Miller and Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan Mackinnon.
You don’t just give away your stick after scoring two goals with it. Just ask Zack MacEwen pic.twitter.com/R8ZlS9UOib— BarDown (@BarDown) March 7, 2020
While born less than six weeks apart in 1996, the two young Canucks’ right wingers have taken very different routes to this 2020 year of the plague playing time showdown. Virtanen was a high first round pick of then new general manager Jim Benning in 2014. He arrived with much fanfare and interest.
MacEwen was an undrafted free agent, also signed by Benning, but nearly three years after Virtanen joined the Canucks’ organization. Some in the Canucks’ blogosphere openly derided the signing as “a wasted contract” back then. MacEwen’s development into a bonafide NHLer has since forced some of his doubters to admit their error.
Both players also spent their Covid-19 time off in different ways. Virtanen seemed to spend his getting in and out trouble while drawing bad press. He faced criticism for distracted driving and also not using a mask while out clubbing shortly before the opening of Camp.
The NHL deleted the post, but Jake Virtanen still has his distracted driving Instagram story post up. pic.twitter.com/lF8oT4ZJJS— Leah Kessel (@leahflame) May 27, 2020
The Canucks have had a private chat with forward Jake Virtanen after a video posted to Instagram shows him at Celebrities Nightclub in Vancouver with other people and not wearing a mask. https://t.co/5kjdf4avj6 pic.twitter.com/aZFZMwsQ5a— NEWS 1130 (@NEWS1130) July 1, 2020
MacEwen was in mourning for much of his time off during the break due to the untimely loss of his father. He seems to have used his loss to gain extra focus on his game.
Zack MacEwen takes questions from the media over Zoom.— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) July 18, 2020
“The first few days were a good push. It was a bit of a grind, but nice to get the legs going and feel the gameplay scenarios.” pic.twitter.com/DqYPpUxAQR
Zack MacEwen calls the loss of his father a very unexpected life changing event. He says coming back to playing hockey is weird because he would always talk to his Dad about how things were going during past camps, but having something to focus on has helped him. #Canucks— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) July 18, 2020
It is certainly an interesting storyline to follow to see which of the two young stud right wingers Travis Green inks into the line-up on the Canucks third line on August 2nd for Game One of their play-in series against the Minnesota Wild. Will it be the former first round high draft pick or the unwanted player who all the scouts passed on in his draft year?
And it is still even possible that both are in the pressbox on August 2nd. Veteran proven NHL playoffs performer, Micheal Ferland, who plays both wings, continues to get himself ready for contact while toiling with the Black Aces at the moment.