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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Canucks Army Pre-Season Prospect Rankings: #11 Michael DiPietro

With the 64th overall pick, the Canucks selected Windsor Spitfires goaltender Michael DiPietro. The young netminder was coming off a fantastic campaign that was highlighted by a Memorial Cup performance.

Despite being knocked out in the first round of the OHL playoffs, the Spitfires qualified for the Memorial Cup as they were the hosts. That first round exit was courtesy a game seven overtime loss to the London Knights in a series where DiPietro was one of the best players on both teams.

With that, DiPietro checks in as the 11th ranked prospect in the Canucks organization in our pre-season prospect rankings.

Qualifications

We’ve changed the qualifications up just a little bit this year. Being under the age of 25 is still mandatory (as of the coming September 15th), but instead of Calder Trophy rules, we’re just requiring players to have played less than 25 games in the NHL (essentially ignoring the Calder Trophy’s rule about playing more than six games in multiple seasons).

Graduates from this time last year include Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin, while Anton Rodin is simply too old now, and Jake Virtanen is not being considered solely as a result of his games played.

Scouting Report

Before the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, DiPietro was ranked 88th by Canucks Army, and Greg Balloch provided this great scouting report on him:

Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires is a potential top goaltending pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He drew a lot of attention as a 16-year-old when he appeared in 29 OHL games, while posting a respectable .912 save percentage. He was able to improve that number to .917 in 51 games this season, which has helped his draft stock considerably. You don’t normally see 17-year-olds starting as many games as he has. Including playoffs, he’s appeared in 90 games – which is a very solid sample size to work with.

The biggest knock against DiPietro is not his size, but rather his ability to effectively utilize his 6-foot-1 frame. He reads plays well and is an excellent puck-tracker, but his skating strategy needs to improve by the time he reaches the professional level. Goaltenders that have a similar frame achieve success by beating passes on their feet. DiPietro, on the other hand, has an initial tendency to slide across. The downside of that is not just the fact that he is down in the butterfly early, reducing his size, but it also means that he loses the ability to move laterally back the other way if there is a returning pass. At 6-foot-1, he’ll need to play more aggressively than other larger goaltenders, and the ability to hold his edges is something he is required to master moving forward.

His talent ceiling remains very high. He is lauded by many scouts for his intense focus, and ability to battle through broken plays in front of him. His slightly aggressive style and physical strength/flexibility means that he gets the ‘athletic’ tag slapped on him quite often.

Overall, DiPietro is one of the five best goaltending prospects in this year’s draft. He does have a few issues to iron out in his game, but is a very good candidate to become an NHL goaltender if he is able to develop properly.

Obviously, in our pre-draft rankings, DiPietro was ranked 24 spots lower than where he was eventually selected, but it’s worth noting that we compiled our list before the Memorial Cup and goalies can be hard to analyze. There is a risk to their selection, and thus that risk forces more safe players to rise above. That said, the selection of DiPietro at 64th is a good one and helps the Canucks solidify the long term outlook in the crease for years to come.

There is some concern about DiPietro’s size, but those concerns are overstated. He makes up for it with his athletic play, competitiveness and his tracking. He appears small in the net but makes up for it with his quick movement and aggression.

Like Thatcher Demko, Dipietro is a student of the game with the desire to be the best he can be. If you are hedging your bets on a smaller goalie, like DiPietro, then his personality is exactly what you would hope would go with it.

Dipietro finished the season 3rd in SV% (0.917) amongst regular goals in the OHL — behind only Tyler Parsons and Matthew Villalta. But it’s worth noting that DiPietro played in 51 games compared to 34 (Parsons) and 33 (Villalta). He played 935 more minutes than Parsons and 1140 more minutes than Villalta.

The image below shows DiPietros rolling save percentage throughout the season. The data labels are what the SV% was at for the conclusion of each month:

DiPietro was tied most shutouts in the OHL with six.

The graph below shows his goals against on a per game basis and then rolling GAA throughout the season:

DiPietro is fairly young for this draft class, just turning 18 this past June. He will be able to return to Windsor for the next two full seasons and then make the transition to the professional ranks for the 2019-20 season.

This also means that he is eligible for Team Canada at the World Juniors for this year and next season. He’s expected to compete for the net this year with Carter Hart, and Dylan Wells but for the 2019 tournament here in Vancouver, it’s fair to believe that he will be the starting net minder for Canada. That’s an exciting proposition.

There is an argument to be made that DiPietro vaulted up the ranking just because of his Memorial Cup performance, but we can see that he had a strong January and February for Windsor. He struggled a bit in March but was fantastic against London in the playoffs. His Memorial Cup performance just put a spotlight on him, and he made the most of it.

The Canucks did very well take DiPietro in the year’s draft, and the value gained by snagging him in the early third is a boon. The organization was able to address the long term needs up front but still grab arguably the best North American goaltender available.

Luckily, there is no rush for DiPietro as the Canucks already have Demko ahead of him on the development curve. The Amherstburg, ON native, can focus on improving his technique and positioning without the pressure of having to be the savior in the net.

  • truthseeker

    I think Benning may have said once in an interview that the strategy would be to try to take one of the top goalies every draft year, in terms of using a second round (or so) pick on them. Of course other factors may change exactly where, but I think it’s a good strategy. Even though the position doesn’t have a lot of value in terms of trade, you just never know with goalies….who’s going to make a great one. So might as well stock up on them as best you can.

    • Cageyvet

      Agreed. As painful as the Luongo-Schneider ordeal was, having Dan Cloutier, Arturs Irbe, and Eddie Lack is worse. All good guys, and not bad between the pipes, but you better be a stacked team if you’re going to the dance without a high-end goalie.