The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 22 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 9 today.
Who is Jake Virtanen?
Jake Virtanen is described as a pure power forward. He has a lot of skating speed, and his speed is even more impressive considering his 6'1", 210 lbs frame. In fact, he was the the fastest skater at the BMO Top Prospect game. With both size and speed, he can power through defenders. Because he's an aggressive and physical player, he gets to the net easily and uses his skillful hands to score.
Scouts say that Virtanen does need to improve his defensive game. According to Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers:
"The only negatives in Virtanen’s game are between the ears. While he does have the ability to take over a game with his size, speed and impressive offensive acumen, he occasionally gets over-aggressive with his physicality and takes penalties at the wrong time. Sometimes this can happen in the same game; against Regina in mid-January, he took 19 minutes in penalties in the first period and came back to score twice in the second period to win the game."
The Winnipeg Jets Needs
Winnipeg could use an elite goaltending prospect. For some reason, they seem to think Ondrej Pavelec will be an elite player for a long time even though he's not good right now and hasn't really shown that he will improve. Considering that their back-up goalie from last season is a UFA, now would be a good time to bring a goalie up from the AHL to have him back up Pavelec or play in games when Pavelec gets pulled. Currently, the Jets' AHL team, the Saint John's Ice Caps are doing well in the the Calder Cup playoffs and will play in the Final. Their goalie, Michael Hutchinson has a 1.61 GAA and a .946 save percentage. Perhaps he could be the back-up that the Jets use next year.
In spite of the Jets need for goaltending improvement, I think they don't think they need an upgrade and as such, they will draft a forward. Drafting a right shot would give the Jets the option to move Byfuglien back to defense if they chose. They have a lot of centers in the pipeline too, so they are going to need talented players to play with the prospects they already have. Since Virtanen is a large guy with speed who doesn't care about defense as much as he should, he fits in really well with the players that the Jets already have who play this style.
How Would He Fit in with the Wild?
The Wild need more right shot forwards, especially scorers, and Virtanen is a scorer. Additionally, Virtanen's size and speed could only be an asset to the Wild. He likes to shoot, which is something that the Wild also could use. The great defensive forwards on the Wild may be able to help him progress into a player who can be defensively responsible and disciplined. If Virtanen were to slip down to the Wild, they would probably send him back to the Calgary Hitmen for a year to help him get some consistency and discipline to his game.