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Holland explains Oilers’ decision to sign Virtanen to professional tryout


Ken Holland said the Edmonton Oilers were comfortable offering Jake Virtanen a professional tryout deal despite the forward’s recent sexual assault trial.

Virtanen was found not guilty by a jury in Vancouver in July. He last played in the NHL with the Canucks in 2021 before he was placed on leave by the team that May when the sexual assault allegations surfaced.

“The most important thing is he went through the legal system, he went to a court of law, and a jury found him not guilty,” Holland explained to reporters.

“…The biggest thing for me is to have faith in the legal system and if we lose faith in the legal system I don’t think that’s a good thing. … I’m trusting the legal system to offer a pro tryout and now over two weeks we will evaluate him, and if he’s not good enough from a hockey standpoint, we will release him.”

Virtanen, 26, played in the KHL with Moscow Spartak last season.

Holland said that in order for Virtanen to earn a deal with the team, he has to show he can play lower in the lineup.

“He’s not in line for a top six job here,” Holland explained. “We are looking for him to chip in with some offence, kill penalties, be good defensively, provide some physicality.”

Editor’s Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.

The native of Langley, B.C. wept openly when the not-guilty verdict was read in B.C. Supreme Court in July.

Virtanen was charged in January with sexual assault in connection with an incident in a downtown Vancouver hotel room in September 2017.

Virtanen told the court that the woman who accused him of assault was an “enthusiastic participant” in the encounter.

The 23-year-old woman, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, testified that she repeatedly said “no” and told Virtanen that she did not want to have sex with him before he pinned her to the hotel bed with his body weight.

While awaiting trial, Virtanen had nine goals and seven assists in 36 games for Spartak last season.

Virtanen has 55 goals and 45 assists in 317 career NHL games, all with the Canucks.

Vancouver selected the Calgary Hitmen product sixth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

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