The Vancouver Canucks announced that goaltender Jacob Markstrom was recalled from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League on Monday
Markstrom, 25, made back-to-back starts for the Comets this weekend, winning both games and stopping 50 of the 53 shots he faced. Read past the jump for more.
The former second-round draft pick, once believed to be the best young goaltender in hockey due to his enviable combination of size, speed and reflexes, has been unable to establish himself as even a remotely average NHL goaltender. It’s odd considering not only his physical tools and attributes, but also his absolute dominance of every other level of hockey.
The still-young Markstrom has now managed a .917 save percentage in AHL play while facing over 7000 shots, so we can say that he’s an elite AHL goalie with a good degree of certainty. Usually a 25-year-old elite AHL goalie is at least capable of being a decent backup in the show.
For whatever reason though Markstrom has this uncanny habit of being an elite goaltender at every level – the SHL, the World Championships, the AHL – and yet he’s hasn’t demonstrated that he can be counted on, even in spot duty, in the NHL. Markstrom has now faced over 1200 shots at the NHL level and he’s appeared in 48 games, while managing a .894 save percentage.
This season, in his one appearance with the Canucks, Markstrom was pulled after about seven minutes in a game against the San Jose Sharks. On the year he’s stopped one of four shots in NHL play…
It’s not a big enough sample of work for us to write Markstrom off necessarily, especially not considering his pedigree, AHL performance and physical tools. Whether it’s bad luck or a legitimate case of the yips though, with the Canucks in the thick of a tightly contested playoff race, can the club afford to see what they have in Markstrom before the expiry of his current deal?
It’s a tough question, especially considering how reliant the club has been on the stellar play of Eddie Lack in recent weeks.
The situation is also complicated by Markstrom’s inconveniently backloaded contract. Simply put, Markstrom is too expensive to qualify if you’re not writing him into next years NHL lineup, in pen. Also because he’s a goaltender, because he’s unproven in the NHL, and because it’s expensive for a team that wants to retain their right of first refusal in negotiations with him, it seems unlikely that he’d have much in the way of trade value.
It’ll be fascinating to watch how this plays out, but that the club returned Markstrom to the AHL this weekend and gave him an opportunity to workout the rust and perhaps rebuild some confidence, suggests that perhaps we’ll see him get a start here in the not-too-distant future.