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Virtanen remains with Canucks, but AHL still an option down the road

Jake Virtanen, Dion Phaneuf

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen, left, checks Ottawa Senators’ Dion Phaneuf during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)


Anton Rodin’s lingering knee injury will allow winger Jake Virtanen to remain with the Vancouver Canucks to start the regular season.

But general manager Jim Benning had a warning of sorts for the 20-year-old Virtanen -- if his play doesn’t meet the NHL standard, he’ll be off to Utica.

Virtanen had an up-and-down rookie season in 2015-16, scoring seven goals in 55 games. He wasn’t eligible to be sent to the AHL last year, but he is now.

At his best, Virtanen can be a physical force on the forecheck, with scoring ability to boot. It’s just a matter of doing it night after night that’s been a challenge for the sixth overall draft pick in 2014.

Rodin, meanwhile, is expected to be placed on injured reserve as he continues to rehab the major injury he suffered in January while playing in Sweden.

“The injury got aggravated and so he’s going to have to take a step back,” Benning said recently of Rodin, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’re going to give him a few days or week off here to get the swelling down, and from there just rehab so he’s a 100 per cent for us. We’re going to need him at 100 per cent.”

Benning also said today that the Canucks intend to sign winger Jack Skille, who’s with the club on a PTO, and they intend to put winger Emerson Etem on waivers after a less-than-impressive camp and preseason.

Related: There’s one ‘vision’ in Vancouver this season, and that’s winning