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Photo Credit: Bryan W. Peck / Utica Comets

Canucks Army Pre-Season Prospect Profile: #4 Thatcher Demko

Thatcher Demko, who the Vancouver Canucks selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is the highest ranked goalie in the Canucks Army Pre-Season Prospect Profiles series.

After making the leap from the NCAA to the AHL last season, the young netminder suffered his share of hiccups, but that shouldn’t take away from how good Demko is. He has the work ethic, athleticism, self-reflection and hockey IQ to reach his potential as a number one goalie in the NHL.

With goalies, you have to be patient, and Demko is the prime example of that.

Demko checks in as the fourth ranked prospect in our consensus 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

If you’re a regular in this space, you should know by now that I’ve been a fan of Demko’s for a few years now and have high hopes for the San Diego, California native. After a fantastic collegiate career, Demko headed to the AHL to take that next step. Although he had some struggles to start the year, there were long stretches where Demko was downright dominant for the Comets.

Those long stretches of great play coincided with Bachman being recalled to the Canucks due to injuries to Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom. Demko was given the net and ran with it. If he had an off night, he was put back in the net for the next game. Those forced reps allowed Demko to get into a rhythm, get comfortable, and show flashes of what he may become in years to come.

I do recall seeing some concern over his numbers in the first parts of the season, but those numbers were influenced by a variety of factors including a lack of reps. Demko also appeared to be a little behind the play and tracking, particularly on his glove hand. As the year progressed, though, those concerns evaporated.

There is ample reason for optimism with Demko’s last season. He stumbled out of the gate, certainly, but that was expected when making the leap to professional hockey. He worked hard and refined his playing style under the watchful eye of Roland Melanson and improved over the course of the season. I’ve said it before, but what sets Demko apart from the pack is a willingness always to get better and his meticulous attention to detail. I spoke with him at Young Stars last season, asking about some of his ‘book-keeping’ on specific players. He recited back a specific example from the World Juniors in 2015, which was 20 months before that.

It’s clear that Demko needs to continue to play in the AHL, and play a lot. The expansion draft threw a wrench in the long term succession plan as the Canucks had to extend Bachman for another season to ensure they met the exposure requirements. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does complicate things as the Comets head coach Trent Cull will always have that veteran to take starts away from Demko.

Demko will need to improve his consistency to show that he can handle the elevated workload.

On the flip side, it gives Demko competition for the net, and that may motivate him. It’s a layered situation that will have to play over the course of the season, but looking at the long term needs of the organization, the Canucks would be best served to give Demko the upper hand in the matchup and force as many minutes as he can handle.

During the 2018-19 season, the Canucks will have Jacob Markstrom, and Anders Nilsson under contract with the Canucks and Bachmans’ deal will be done. It’s fair to assume that Demko will be the number one guy in Utica for the duration of that year. His entry level contract and his ability to be assigned to the AHL without waivers will both end at the conclusion of that 18-19 season.

Needless to say, that next year will be a fun one to watch in Utica next season, and Demko will be a huge part of that. The organization will get a big influx of young talent with higher ceilings. This will mean there will be some learning curves in the forward and defensive ranks.

All of this is just to reinforce that patience is needed with Demko. He made impressive strides over the course of the year and will look to build upon that this year. Ideally, he will get some NHL action this season (as injuries are inevitable) and get a read of where he needs to improve to take that next step.

    • Kevin Weaks

      What ‘tradition’ of great goaltending is that, Luongoat the playoff choker, or the years of Brian Burke flops before that? Kirk Mclean was the last decent starting goalie and that was back when Noah was building the ark. Idiot.

      Demko was a long shot with dodgy hips who many teams passed on and his play in Utica has been very average and inconsistent. He is far away from being an NHL starter if ever. I also know a good goalie prospect when i see one, and his name is Matt Murray.

      • RoCkFaThEr

        You forgot your password again didn’t you? Such a shame you have to keep Reinventing email addresses just to login to the site.
        What a Sad life you must live.

      • Cageyvet

        Way to go Sherlock, you’ve identified a Stanley Cup winner as a “prospect”. Wait, don’t tell me, next year whomever gets the first overall pick should draft McDavid. Not just a troll, a stupid troll.

      • pheenster

        You know who else is gonna be awesome? These four mop-topped kids from Liverpool called the Beatles. I know a lot about musical prospects and these guys are gonna be phenomenal. Bank it!

      • confused canuck

        I’m confused. Why is it that anyone with a valid yet different opinion that doesn’t bathe the Canucks in a glowing golden light is termed a troll by the same old self-appointed cognoscenti?

        In my view Kevin has presented some valid facts here and you just don’t like to hear the truth. Need I remind you that it was Brian Burke who termed vancouver the goalie graveyard, and history has shown him to be right.

        Therefore I would suggest that backup bob claiming a tradition of great goaltending in vancity is far more trolling than the points Kevin has put across.

        As for Demko, again I am confused. I recall the original plan was to bring him to Utica and be lights out right away and then take the reins from Miller on the big club, much like Matt Murray in Pitts. Obviously this hasn’t worked out because Thatcher simply hasn’t been good enough to make the jump to be an NHL goalie.

        Very confusing that hostile regulars here cannot accept credible criticism from new commenters, because in this case kevin is totally correct, isn’t he?

        • Bud Poile

          J.D. ,your customers keep telling you they don’t enjoy or want youur troll fest.
          Instead of consistenly agitating,insulting and annoying your loyal customer bbase why don’t you up your game and site quality?

        • Wanda Fuca

          Let’s try a reality check, shall we? “Kevin” did not present any “valid facts”, merely opinions. Nothing he claims is more than an opinion. He also resorts to name calling, ie. “idiot”. When you begin your little blurb by calling the previous poster an idiot, you may incur some hostility, and deservedly so. Hurling insults is trolling.

          Backup bob isn’t trolling; he’s offering an opinion. He’s doing it respectfully and he is entitled to his opinion, regardless of who may agree or disagree, and responders like “Kevin” who resort to childish name calling should be banned from this site. Btw, I don’t believe for a minute that you are confused, just wrong. The only valid point you make is that “Thatcher simply hasn’t been good enough to make the jump to be an NHL goalie.” Correct. But take note: no one expected him to make the jump after only one year in the AHL. To suggest the plan was ever something else is disingenuous.

      • Killer Marmot

        Luongo has the most wins of any active NHL goaltender, and is 5th (soon to be 4th) among NHL goaltenders of all time. He has represented Team Canada ten times in various international tournaments. He’s headed straight for the Hall of Fame, likely in his first year of eligibility.

        Other than that, a real dud.

          • Goalie Graveyard

            Is this a joke?
            Nine goalies listed, zero rings.

            Brodeur had ONE winning season in eight years. Miller, Potvin, Mclean, Wilson, Maniago all had losing records!

            Luongo a playoff failure on a loaded team who cost us the cup!

            “Vancouver is a goalie graveyard” Brian Burke – Stanley Cup winner (Anaheim)

            let yourself out…

          • RoCkFaThEr

            Vancouver is a goalie graveyard” Brian Burke .
            Pretty sure he was referencing ” fans ” like you…. not the quality of goaltending in Vancouver…..smh

    • Giant-Nation

      I have been reading Van Canuck articles for over 20 years and really enjoyed when Province and Sun were different companies and journalists had different points of view and would dig deep for any new information, these papers are high on regurgitating the same shallow article between each other. I have been really impressed with this sites stat based analysis and well thought out and researched articles. Great resource for a fan, thx.

  • RoCkFaThEr

    Thank you Mr. Biech for another great article!
    I too am a fan of Demko!
    Goaltenders take longer to come into their own, this kid is going to be great!

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    This article makes Richard Bachman sound like a completely disposable piece of meat. I think you’re underselling him quite a bit. A veteran #3 goalie, who can carry the load in the AHL as needed and not look completely over his head making emergency NHL starts, has some real value. So does his experience behind a group of young and developing players, especially with the mantra of “growing up in a winning environment”. Certainly, the plan would be to hand more starts to Demko as he develops in Utica, but having Bachman there gives the team so much flexibility to groom him as they see fit and not rush him.