CanucksArmy Prospect Profile 2015: #12 Thatcher Demko

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Canucks fans don’t want another goaltending controversy. The fanbase – shaken, perhaps, by the events of the past three years and painfully aware that all it’s going to take for a Ryan Miller/Jacob Markstrom controversy to heat up is a single hot or cold streak – would probably wecome some peace, quiet and stability in net for about a decade. 

The bad news is that we’re probably going to be dealing with another one of these goalie battles in a couple of years. The good news is that Thatcher Demko’s upside appears to be worth the eventual re-aggravation.

Demko is a goalie that plays with a calm and maturity that is rare for a goalie of his age — making his NCAA debut as a 17-year-old. He relies on technique and positioning, using his large frame and good lateral mobility to make it a challenge for shooters to find holes. He plays an efficient game with little wasted movement. –Hockey’s Future

The Canucks drafted Demko with the 36th overall pick at the 2014 Entry Draft. It was an odd, transitional time for the Canucks in ne: the club had already dealt their elite tandem of Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, and were mere days away from signing Miller. Obviously the club’s decision to draft a goaltender with a relatively high draft pick raised some eyebrows, but considering that Demko was likely to be several years away from turning pro and was the top-rated goaltender on the board, the pick made a good deal of sense.

Looking at how Demko had performed in his freshman year at Boston College made the selection all the more intriguing. At the ripe young age of eighteen, the San Diego native posted a very impressive 0.919 save percentage over 24 games, the 17th best save percentage in college hockey and 4th amongst first-year players. His being committed to the NCAA made things a little easier for the Canucks as well; they could draft a quality prospect without burning a contract spot.

Demko followed up on his dynamic first year in the NCAA with another relatively spectacular performance this year. Despite battling through a nagging hip injury that affected his lateral movement throughout the season (and required surgery this summer), Demko not only managed to play eleven more games than the year prior, he also did so while upping his save percentage to 0.925. Because he wasn’t physically able to play the position in a technical fashion at times, some of his saves got a little athletic to say the least.

Even still, the biggest reason for his performance as a result of improving his positioning. As he told Metro’s Cam Tucker in March, Demko spent last summer working on his physical strength, in order to push off towards being square with the puck with more emphasis and agility.

Demko’s best showcase of his talents came at the international level, when he represented the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championship. In four games with the stars and stripes, Demko posted a 0.934 save percentage, putting him near the top of the class. It’s not hard to argue that he was the best goaltender in the tournament other than Slovakian super-being Denis Godla.

“This will be the healthiest I have been. Ever,” said Demko. “I have just been looking forward to the day I can play pain free for about four years. I’m excited to get some gear on and see what that’s like.” –NHL.com

The key thing to remember about projecting Demko’s Canucks future is that this is going to require some significant patience. Goaltenders require a lot of hands-on development from their tutors and coaching staff, and need to be put in the right situations to succeed. To maximize his potential, the Canucks are best suited to have him play at Boston College for one more year, sign him to a contract before he enters his senior year (at which point it’s really easy for a top NCAA prospect to just hit free agency), and then make him the long-term starter of the Utica Comets until he’s absolutely ready to play in the NHL. If it takes three-to-four years, so be it. 

With his gigantic frame (6’4, 195lbs), his athletic ability, and his open mind to growing as a player, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Thatcher Demko become the next, great starting goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks. Until someone else out-battles him for the spot and continues the Canucks’ seemingly never-ending game of musical crease, that is.



  • Three to four years seems a little long, but if that’s what it takes. I would like to see him backup Markstrom in two years, after Millers contract expires. I maybe a little impatient here.

    Benning is building a pipeline of prospects to join the big club. Demko is a pretty good piece.

  • WTF2

    @BackupBob

    Think you’re right about Demko may be ready after a final year in college, plus one season on the farm team. Alternatively keep him in the AHL for a few years, then bring him up as a backup for a couple of season. Eventually (if all goes well) Demko could start in the show for a decade.

  • peterl

    Cory Schneider was drafted in 2004 (end of 2003-2004 season) and made his pro debut in 2007-2008. If we project Demko to have a similar trajectory, that would make him AHL ready in 2017-2018. It seems like a long long ways away. Demko does seem to have an accelerated track over Schneider. Demko was the #1goalie for Team USA WJHC in his draft +1 year. Schneider was the backup in draft +1, and then the #1 in his draft +2 year.

    The fans are going to have to be extremely patient with Demko and drafted goalies. A lot can happen between now and him suiting up for the Canucks. It sounds extremely smooth for the goalie crease to transition straight from Miller, to Markstrom, to Demko. There will likely be challenges along the way and other short term fixes in net may tide us over until Demko is ready to show whether he is a day-to-day NHL player.

  • wojohowitz

    Schneider did three years at BC, then three years with the Moose and then was 1a for three years with Luongo and the Canucks before they traded him. Demko will probably follow a similar trajectory. Let`s be generous and suppose he is only five years away. Is that a wise use of a draft pick?

    • peterl

      I’m not sure 5 years is really being “generous”, considering Scheider played 3 years at BC AFTER being drafted (as he was drafted out of HS) while Demko would only need to play 2 seasons after the draft (since he had completed his first year prior to the draft). So 2 extra years in College and 2-3 in the AHL, doesn’t seem that far off from what a skater taken in the 2nd round would likely do (2 years in junior, 2-3 in AHL. Remember this is a 2nd, not a high 1st).

      Can’t see much cause to complain about the “wiseness” of the pick in that regard.

  • peterl

    Now I know why Demko was selected 2nd G despite being ranked 1st G in the year of the draft. I always did know about College Prospects bailing out on their drafted teams. Justin Shultz was the first to use the loophole. He made a huge mistake, would’ve been playing with experienced Dmen in Anaheim and may even helped them win a cup instead of spending his first years in Edmonton. They might be able to bring in experienced Dmen now but old habits are hard to break. Sure hope Demko will sign with the Canucks and be patient as the road to the NHL is long but rewarding. Just ask Schnieder how’s he doing.

    • peterl

      Benning seems to have no issue with drafting players from the ncaa. i was thinking a long the same lines when we took boeser, but he has had such a strong summer so far that its hard to argue with the pick.

      On a slightly different note, I would of thought Demko would of been higher up the list. granted his journey will be longer than most, but that shouldn’t reflect this negativity on his status as a quality prospect. its hard to see the next 5-7 prospects in this series being better prospects than demko. they might be faster to the nhl than demko but you cant project any of them to have a bighter future than demko.

      • peterl

        I wondered that too; he’s ranked in the top 10-15 goaltending prospects by most NHL predictors I’ve seen. I’d think he’s got at least as much upside as a Virtanen or McCann.

        And as for wasting a high pick on a goalie, I think CA has to stop beating this horse. With the exception of Hellebuyck and McIntyre, just about every one of the top 20 goaltending prospects in the NHL today are drafted in rounds 1-3. The vast majority of the really good goalies in the NHL, the ones you actually build your franchise around, are going to be top picks. It doesn’t matter if you can find a Ryan Miller (when he was good) in the 5th; the game has also changed a lot and finding a great goalie — not a passable one mind you — is challenging. Lack, for all his personality, was not a great goalie.

          • peterl

            I think most of the angst is about trading away a guy with a much smaller contract than Miller, who most people think is better than Miller, and many people enjoyed as a personality more than Miller.

            I don’t think anyone is arguing he was Luongo.

  • peterl

    Great to finally read a CA article that consists of more then just pcs models and wacky graphs full of obscure numbers. You actually included a real life quote from the player! And even listed some of his accomplishments to date!! Good job Jeffler. Keep it up.

    As for Demko, solid prospect. If he stays the course all signs point to starting goalie, which is a must have for every prospect pool. It’ll be fun to watch his progression over the years