Canucks Army Midterm Prospect Rankings #3: Thatcher Demko


Checking in as the third best prospect in the organization, is goaltender Thatcher Demko.

After dominating the NCAA for three years, the young netminder made his way to the AHL this season. There has been a bit of a learning curve, which was expected, but there is still no doubting the San Diego natives talent.

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I’ve always been extremely high on Demko. He has the drive, work ethic, smarts and talent to be an impact goalie for the Canucks for years to come. There is a reason why he has quickly ascended the prospect rankings and is firmly a top three prospect.

The Qualifications

Before we dissect Demko further, let’s get the nitty-gritty details out of the way about the criteria for a qualifying prospect: 

  • The player must be 25 years or younger, and
  • The player must be eligible for the Calder Trophy next season.

As a result, players that are considered to be “graduated” to the NHL (Brendan Gaunce, Nikita Tryamkin, Jake Virtanen, Anton Rodin) are not eligible.

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Scouting Reports

Thatcher Demko is an exceptionally athletic goaltender that can seem unbeatable on many occasions. His composure in net and modified butterfly style have scouts comparing him to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. He prepares himself well, positionally, for initial shots and the subsequent rebounds, and his cross-crease lateral movement is very good. As he tracks the puck, his stick always covers the five-hole and he makes himself big. One of the most noticeable aspects about Demko’s style is that he doesn’t go down prematurely; he isn’t overly aggressive, but will get out to the top of the blue paint to challenge shooters with a clear shooting lane. Moving forward, Thatcher Demko will have every opportunity to develop into an elite franchise-type goaltender that can be relied upon in all situations. – Elite Prospects

The Rundown

I’ve written about Demko on a few occasions, including the summer, when I conducted a lengthy interview with goalie expert Kevin Woodley.

I would recommend checking that out if you haven’t already done so, as Woodley grants expert insight into Demko.

I also spoke to Demko at Young Stars in Penticton, about how he prepares for games and analyzes shooters and plays. I didn’t include the entirety of our conversation in that post, but I walked away from the interaction with a sense that Demko already gets how to be a professional. He recounted specific events and players from two years ago with great detail.

Linking both of those pieces are an excellent way to see how Demko is off the ice, and he is a student of the game.

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On the ice, Demko struggled to start the season, as he adjusted to the AHL:

Thatcher Demko Save Percentages

One of the areas of concern was his glove hand; he was regularly getting beat of shots on that side. But he quickly adapted how he held his hand, and then it went up from there. His partner Richard Bachman went down with an injury in early November, and Demko went on a tear:

Those are exceptional numbers when being relied upon as the number one goalie. His performance has seen something of a dip since, as Bachman returned, relegating Demko to a backup role. Demko has also battled illness over the last few weeks.

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Contrary to others suggestions that Demko should play more, I find this is exactly the environment he should be in. Between the ample practice time and how much of it is spent with Rollie Melanson, Demko’s in the ideal situation to learn how to be a professional goaltender.

Though the Canucks have Bachman signed for another season (primarily for the purposes of the expansion draft) I’d expect the two will split starts next season, with Demko taking the lion’s share. Bachman playing more next year isn’t vital to the long-term success of the organization. Demko needs to be playing night in and night out. Go through some tribulations and work through them. Obviously, if he falters then Bachman is there to spell him.

The Canucks will likely go the route of signing another goaltender to share the duties with Markstrom for 2017-18. Depending on who they target, they may need to do a two-year deal, granting Demko time to marinate in the AHL for the duration of his ELC. He would then be poised to jump up into the NHL, as a back-up for the last season of Markstrom’s new contract in 2019-20.

That’s an ideal development timeline for a goalie and should be the expectation. If Demko enjoys a sustained period of great play in Utica next season as the starting goalie, then maybe that changes the plans of the organization, but ultimately it will just mean that he is the call-up option for when an injury inevitably happens.

Like all prospects, patience is key. Rushing a goaltender can lead to disastrous results. The Canucks are ultimately not a position to have Demko suffer massive regression – he needs to develop and play in Utica with eyes of making the NHL in a full-time role (back-up) in 2019-20. If he gets there faster, all the better.

  • Having Demko in our system gives me peace of mind. This may sound strange, but it’s true. He’s a really nice asset to have. Same with our depth at defense.

    Perhaps Garteig can join the Comets next year if Vegas scoops up Bachman, although having two young goalies is not the best case scenario. Someone older with more experience is probably best. Bachman is a non threat to Demko in his development, so Jim Benning put this whole thing together well. The path to the NHL is set for Demko.

  • Peezy F

    If we don’t resign Miller and don’t find a quality backup, I think it would be a pretty safe bet Bachman backs up a heavy work load Markstrom next year especially if Bachman play keeps up to where it is right now. Melanson has shown he can teach an old dog new tricks and at 30, it seems like he is having a renaissance to his career as a pro, albeit at the AHL level. Pretty risky but that is how the cards may fall.

    However, I would love to see the splits be Garteig and Demko in Utica next year to give the organization the best chance at developing the two. Garteig is 25 or 26 and could be a good AHL goalie/fringe NHL backup when it is all said and done. He is an RFA at years end so lets see if Nucks resign him.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Guys – to COMPETE for a STANLEY CUP you need ELITE GOALTENDING. As I am sure MANY will agree we DO NOT have this with Markstrom and it’s clear Demko is years off making the show – if he ever does. In FACT, with an average AHL showing thus far, unless this kid WINS a Calder I’m not gonna be planning the parade like most of the DELUDED muppets on here. Remember guys, this is a LOW draft pick with bad hips that many teams passed on, NOT Marc Andre Fleury in his prime.

    Fellas, don’t be FOOLED by this FRAUD of a ROOKIE GM who told us Sutter and Gudbranson are CORE PIECES and that it will be A QUICK TURNAROUND eh!

    However, I DO have a positive solution… Miller walks and BEN BISHOP is signed as a free agent for our first ELITE player in many years. Problem solved.

    Bigger picture guys, BIGGER PICTURE!

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      Pretentious, attention seeking, uninformed idiot. All the capital letters show him standing alone in the middle of a room full of people screaming for attention.

  • Spiel

    Filipovic on the pick when it was made:
    “Thatcher Demko had fine enough numbers in his first year at Boston College, and he may very well turn out to be the number one goalie for the Vancouver Canucks one day. But the odds of that are pretty minuscule based on what we know about the position, and even then, it won’t be for a number of years.”

    Mr Jessop touched on the Demko pick on draft day as “the worst case scenario unfolding with the 36th overall pick”.

    Demko went from “the worst case scenario” to 3rd best prospect?

    • Dirk22

      That’s as much a reflection on the Canucks prospect depth as it is on this site.

      The argument against drafting Demko was that goalies are really hard to predict and that the odds are not in favour of him making it – as opposed to drafting a skater where the odds would be better.

      As a goalie, he’s a great prospect. Top 10 outside of the NHL. It’s just that history has shown there’s a lot of variability with what that actually means. There’s an example right on the Canucks. Markstrom, as a prospect, was regarded as the #1 goalie prospect outside the NHL (Demko currently #10 as per Pronman) and he has yet to secure a #1 goalie position at 27. Still time to but definitely not a sure thing.

      • Spiel

        Who are the surer bets that we could have had with pick #36 in 2014? Consensus seems to be that 36th overall pick has about a 34% chance of playing just 100 NHL games.

        I agree goalies are harder to predict and that is why it is very rare to see team’s spend their first round picks on goalies these days. But, if you can get arguably the best goalie in the draft in the 2nd round, that seems like a gamble worth taking.

        Most of the rankings I have seen, show the Canucks prospect pipeline ranked middle of the pack. So, if Demko is 3rd overall on the Canucks, he would be in the 3rd overall range on most NHL teams and higher on some.

        • Dirk22

          He might be third on some other teams or second, but a lot of those teams would probably have better depth in behind. Don’t get me wrong, he has as good a chance as any to be an amazing NHL goalie – I was just explaining where those articles were coming from in regards to goalies, historically, being harder to predict – it seems people already know that but still like to dig them up out of some resentment for the writers of a blog they like to frequent.

          • Spiel

            I don’t think it is resentment to writers, I think it is just a reminder that none of us know as much as we think we do.

            Here are some of the popular narratives where the Canucks scouts were clearly fools over the years:

            Picking Horvat over Nichushkin
            Picking Virtanen over Ehlers/Nylander – this one looks like CA was right!
            Picking McCann over HoSang/Barbashev/Scherback – CA backtracked pretty quick on that one and McCann became a favorite.
            Picking Demko over ???? – never know who would have been the better pick, just don’t pick a goalie LOL.

    • Ryan Biech

      It took until the 5th comment to post the same articles that get posted every time that we talk about Demko.

      Maybe, just maybe, look at the posts that I have done about Demko. I have been nothing but optimistic and praising of him.

      As Dirk outlined above, data clearly shows that due to the unpredictability of goaltenders, using a high pick to take one is a HUGE risk. For every Cory Schneider or Semyon Varlamov – there is a Mark Visentin, Marek Schwarz, Justin Peters, Tyler Plante, Jeff Frazee, Riku Helenius, Leland Irving.

      I could keep going, but you get the point.

  • Burnabybob

    The Canucks have a solid foundation for a winning team. They haven’t drafted the big name superstars that other teams have, but their goaltending and defense look solid. And if you’re building a hockey team, that’s a good place to start.

  • wojohowitz

    I can`t believe you are rating Demko lower than Juolevi. I`ll tell you what it reminds me of; Mike Gillis drafting Hodgson and the media lined up behind him. What a great pick. Hodgson will be our number one center and lead us to the Cup. Mike Gillis – What a genius. The media bought it hook line and sinker.

    Simply put; We don`t know what we have with Juolevi besides potential. Demko is a known quality who shows every sign of being `The Guy`.