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Has Zack MacEwen replaced Jake Virtanen on the Canucks’ right wing depth chart ahead of the play-ins?

Shotgun demoted to extra forward at today’s practice.

NHL: JUL 16 Canucks Training Camp
Zack MacEwen stopped by Jacob Markstrom at Canucks Training Camp on July 16th, 2020.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.