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Why are the Oilers keen to take an opportunity on Jake Virtanen?


PENTICTON, B.C. — Jake VirtanenEvander Kane. Zack Kassian. Andrew Cogliano.

How do these 4 names find yourself in the identical column lede, on the day the Edmonton Oilers made headlines by signing Virtanen to knowledgeable tryout?

Effectively, learn on.

Virtanen arrives at this coaching camp tryout after standing trial in B.C. Supreme Courtroom in July on a depend of sexual assault, stemming from a 2017 incident in Vancouver. Virtanen claimed in courtroom that the encounter was consensual and a jury of his friends discovered him not responsible on July 26.

“It was very powerful to undergo, very onerous to undergo,” Virtanen informed the media in Edmonton on Monday. “You be taught loads about your self, who you’re as an individual. There’s lots of self-reflection on who you’re. Your self-worth… It was a protracted course of.”

Virtanen nonetheless faces a civil go well with within the case, so the Oilers are taking an opportunity on a participant who has not but put the allegations fully behind him. So why are the Oilers keen to tackle a threat that far outweighs any reward in relation to Virtanen, who has been a mean NHL participant at finest by way of the primary seven professional seasons and 317 NHL video games?

Anybody who has been watching this workforce is aware of that the Oilers are not any strangers to taking a threat on a controversial participant that has needed to take care of authorized points away from the sport.

Evander Kane signed with the Oilers in the midst of final season whereas nonetheless dealing with a long-running go well with that was filed in July of 2016 by a Buffalo-area lady who accused the participant of assaulting her. In April, the 2 sides reached a settlement whereas Kane was starring for his workforce down the stretch.

However Kane, who signed a four-year take care of the Oilers this previous summer season, is a first-line participant and a 30-goal scorer. He’s a vastly superior participant to Virtanen in each class.

Virtanen is a 10-goal scorer who has by no means had a powerful defensive recreation. He’s additionally struggled to remain in form. So he involves Edmonton as a third- or fourth-line participant, more likely to play on the league minimal if he performs in any respect.

That brings us to Zack Kassian.

Like Kassian, a first-round draft choose of the Buffalo Sabres who went to the Canucks in a swap for fellow first-rounder Cody Hodgson, Virtanen was drafted sixth general by Vancouver in 2014. He was all the time checked out by way of that lens, and by no means lived as much as his draft standing.

“By no means ought to have been drafted that top,” stated a B.C.-based professional scout. “For me, you’ve received to consider within the justice system, and provides him an opportunity. However hockey-wise, he wants a tough coach who stays on him on a regular basis.”

Kassian ultimately landed in Edmonton as a Backside 6 winger. Expectations have been far decrease, and he thrived for a time, extending his profession and cementing a job as a depth participant.

Virtanen will enter the Edmonton market the identical manner, slotted behind Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi and even perhaps Zach Hyman on the correct facet. Expectations, and his seemingly cap hit, are as little as they are often.

“I’ve to search out my manner on any line,” Virtanen stated. “Backside 6 is the place I’m going to start out, and that’s the place I’m going to must be taught. I wish to be a participant there — a 200-foot participant, and provides my finest effort daily.”

Virtanen is speaking a superb recreation. However is it real?

Solely his play will reply that query, which brings us to Andrew Cogliano.

The Oilers drafted Cogliano twenty fifth general, and a possible High 6 centreman. By the point he had performed three seasons in Edmonton nevertheless, it grew to become clear that Cogliano’s calling was to be a speedy, penalty killing, Backside 6 winger.

Finally Cogliano — a wise, industrious and bodily match participant his total profession — embraced the brand new position in Anaheim. Thus far, he has performed 1,140 video games — about 700 greater than he would have performed had he caught to his weapons on being a scoring centreman.

Right here’s what two B.C.-based scouts stated of Virtanen, every of whom have greater than 100 viewings of the participant:

• “Good dimension, skates rather well. By no means discovered consistency to his recreation,” stated one. “He all the time needed to play a talent recreation, however he’s extra suited to a bodily, Backside 6 position. He may also help you if he has the correct mindset. If he’s pondering, ‘I’ve received one other probability now. What can I do to assist?’ He’s a third- or fourth-line winger who must reassess who he’s and the way he does issues.

“To me, it’s a superb gamble for Edmonton … as a result of it hasn’t value them something, but.” 

• “He’s an NHL skater, with an NHL shot,” stated the opposite. “Not a fantastic passer or playmaker. He’s a shooter who must play in straight traces up and down the wall. He has the wheels, dimension and energy. However, when he will get lazy, you could be on him.” 

My ideas? 

I fear a few participant with a historical past of not being in form, and whose hockey sense is poor. These gamers seldom if ever discover a stage of consistency that earns a coach’s belief. 

I additionally consider in second probabilities, and as a journalist, will abide by the courtroom’s verdict when evaluating the individual. 

If Virtanen can change that opinion of his on-ice recreation, good on him. 

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