Nov 13, 2016
Written by Don Laible
15 games into the NHL season, and the Vancouver Canucks dispatched Jake Virtanen to Utica for a two-game stint. Two years ago, as the sixth overall pick in the NHL draft, Virtanen was seen as a vital part to the organization’s future.
Q: Last year you were with the Comets for two games. What was it like making a return to where you made your pro hockey debut?
A: The fans here are great. What a great atmosphere. I had a nice welcome back.
Q: Does knowing you’re in Utica for two games only, and then heading back to Vancouver, make it easier in how you approach your stay here?
A: I take every game serious. I just want to be ready for the team at all times.
Q: When did you get the word that you were Utica-bound?
A: We (Canucks) were in Detroit. I wasn’t getting a lot of minutes. I came back to find my mojo.
Q: You’re 20-year-old, playing in the NHL, for one of six Canadian-based franchises. Do you get to feel like like a 20-year-old?
A: We’re (NHL players) not your ordinary 20-year-olds. We’re kids away from home, and everyone notices you.
Q: How do you keep the pressure off of you?
A: There’s good pressure and there’s bad pressure. You have the the responsibility to do what’s right, and battle the bad. There will always be adversity in hockey.
Q: When you knew you were coming to Utica, did you seek advice from your family?
A: For sure. My parents are really supportive. I speak to my dad everyday. My brother, he used to play hockey. I talk with him. They tell me that the key, right now, is to do good down here. I have to get my minutes in here Utica and take what I learned back to Vancouver.
Q: How do you sum up this year’s Canucks team?
A: We have a good leadership group. Everybody stays positive. Wille (Desjardins) is a great coach. You have great leadership here (Utica). Carter Bancks, you can’t get better.
Q: Two years ago, during the Calder Cup run, you and Jared McCann (Canucks’ other first-round selection in ’14) were here. He’s with the Panthers now, and you Vancouver. Do you two talk?
A: No, not much. I heard he scored his first goal and had his first assist recently. Congratulations for him.