Canucks recall Jacob Markstrom from Utica

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. 

  • peterl

    I’m still interested to see if the Canucks have anything in Jacob Markstrom. The 7-8 minutes and 4 shots he faced is too small a sample size to judge him. His AHL play warrants a longer NHL look.

    If the Canucks don’t play him in this stretch until Miller returns, I don’t see Markstrom playing in the Canucks organization this year. It makes good asset management sense to give him a couple more games and then evaluate him in the summer. I think the days off for Eddie Lack is also proper time management and will help the playoff run. Eddie has been amazing, but few goaltenders play this many consecutive games.

    It will be interesting to see what the Canucks do this summer with Miller, Lack, and Markstrom (and Ericsson too)

  • Ruprecht

    .917 career save percentage in the AHL but hasn’t had a season worse than .918 since he was 20. That one year when he was extremely young by AHL goalie standards is pulling his averages down. Probably somewhere around .924 since he was 20.

    It really is absurd to me how little a shot Markstrom has been given if you look closely. And it’s also absurd how many people are prepared to write him off. I mean his longest stint in the NHL is 23 games… and that’s when he was 22. He just turned 25 – still relatively young for a goalie.

    So he has played SIXTEEN NHL games since he was 22. Talk about overreacting to a tiny sample.

    I’m convinced that it’s mostly variance in a small sample and/or it’s gotten to him between the ears. It’d be poor asset management to let him walk. There’s still something there. You’re not a phenomenal AHL goalie and nothing in the NHL. Are there any goalies who have ever been elite AHL goalies in their careers but it never transferred to the NHL? Don’t get the logic there.

  • peterl

    Last game out was an outlier. Even elite goalies get pulled.

    Lack will need a bit of rest (if he is to be at his best if Miller isn’t back by the first round).

  • Sample size, schmample size.

    When you let three of four shots by you off the bat, you’ll always get the hook. And if you get the hook in your first game in the big league, chances are you won’t get a second game. Especially during a playoff race.

    Markstrom was given a fair shot by the Canucks. In a couple of minutes he blew it.

    Should those four shots define Markstrom’s career?

    Of course they should. Because results matter. And he couldn’t deliver the necessary results, even for as few as five minutes.

    If you’re unslick Willie, why risk the Club’s entire season (and your job) on a proven failure at the NHL level?

    Maybe if the team goes on a winning streak and hits 96 points with a couple of games to spare you have the luxury of playing him.

    Conversely, if the team goes on a losing streak and is mathematically eliminated, you can experiment with him.

    And (God forbid) if Lack gets injured, you play him as well.

    But, otherwise, you simply can’t afford to start him. He’s too risky.

  • Ruprecht

    To me this series of events clearly signals Markstrom will get into a game this week. If they were writing him off after the San Jose game either let him rot on the bench or send him down to Utica permanently. But he’s done too much in the AHL this year, and management have publicly talked him up too much to dismiss him completely.

    They have four games in six nights this week. I bet he either starts the Columbus game on Thursday, to give Eddie a little breather before a massive game in LA on Saturday, or at a minimum gets Sunday in Arizona.

    The weekend with Utica was smart. You don’t want to throw him into a game two weeks removed from live action

  • Dirty30

    I have faith in Rollie — he seems to see something in Markstrom and I have more trust in him than Internet Gms etc.

    Yes Markstrom got lit up and if it never happened to Lack or Miller I’d put Burrows in net before him if I had to.

    But we’ve seen both Miller and Lack be unable to stop a beachball with a flamethrower and figure it out.

    Let Markstrom figure it out — you don’t get pulled after 7 minutes and then toss up a shutout if the goods aren’t there. Just needs more than 7 minutes to do it.

  • Ruprecht

    Good move to send him down to get some game action. I don’t see any harm in treating the last outing as an anomaly. There aren’t many goalies out there, if any, that haven’t had a span in their careers where they’ve let in 3 of 4. This is no different.

    It’s also a good statement on his mental character to see how he rebounded from it in the AHL. He most certainly gets another start soon, or they simply would have left him down to get more starts in Utica.

  • andyg

    For Markstrom it is not about skill but it is nerves and confidence.

    If we can get him over the nhl butter flies enough for other GM’s to see then send him back to Utica. One or two solid games and we will have an asset that we can trade.

    Lack is a keeper!

  • andyg

    If we trade Markstrom, it will bight us in the arse, big time, down the road.
    He will end up better than Lack, even if it takes a while longer to do so.

    Nothing against Eddie though, the guy is a machine.