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Photo Credit: Candice Ward - USA TODAY Sports

Roster Down The Road: Goaltenders

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and the hockey news in Vancouver has dried up after a furious end to July. So, while Canuck fans eagerly await the arrival of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and other notable prospects in the Vancouver system I started to ponder. With this current group of future prospects and current young players, can the Canucks build a contender from within. Going through the system, I came to the realization it’s entirely possible. I’ve come up with a roster of young players that the Canucks could see in their lineup by 2022-2023 (When the Beagle and Roussel contracts expire). For this exercise, we will only be using players already in the Canucks system, and we won’t be contemplating any new young players the Canucks could potentially draft (Sorry Jack Hughes). Finally, we’re going to use the Sporting News prospect ranking the most, as CanucksArmy haven’t released their pre season prospect list quite yet. Kicking this series off, we’re going to start from the blue paint and take a look at our future goalie tandem.

Goaltenders 2022-2023

Starter

Thatcher Demko

(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

The starting netminder for the Canucks if all goes well would be none other than Thatcher Demko. Demko is listed by Sporting News as the Canucks 3rd best prospect, behind only Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. As it stands, Demko is on the cusp of being in the NHL season as a backup goaltender to incumbent starter Jacob Markstrom. His numbers in the AHL have led fans to believe that he’s going to be an elite starting goalie, and those are down below.

(Demko’s numbers, beginning with his draft season at Boston College. Stats acquired through eliteprospects.com)

As we begin with his draft year, the stats show his save percentage (SV%) increased every year he was in college, while his goals against average (GAA) decreased, showing solid signs of progression.  Demko is also a student of the game, and after having a bit of a rough go in Utica once he signed, he turned it up again and followed his own trend by increasing his SV% and lowering his GAA. In addition to his amazing end to his collegiate career, Demko was named as the 3rd string goaltender for the USA in the 2016 World Championships behind New Jersey goaltender Keith Kinkaid and Canadiens netminder Mike Condon. Finally, Demko got his first start in the NHL this past year, and despite the .867 SV% was quite solid and showed off some of his high end skill with a couple gorgeous stops. What about his maturity? Well this quote from Demko really stands out.

“I am going to go back, watch film and relish in all of these feelings while honing in on the things I can work on this summer to make sure I’m ready.”

This is after his win versus Columbus and being asked if he’ll take anything from the game. For him to make the team this season, he’ll have to outperform the current backup in Anders Nilsson. Knowing how mentally strong Demko is, he’ll take what he learned in his brief little cameo and push Nilsson to the brink.

The 2014 2nd round pick would be 27 turning 28 to begin the season and ideally will have had 3-4 years of being the starter and developing himself into an elite, vezina caliber goalie of the likes of Luongo and Schneider during the Canucks last cup run. Is he a certainty? Absolutely not, but no prospect is. It’s clear to media and fans alike that if Demko hits his ceiling that he’ll be a top of the line star on this Canucks team, with a quality backup to spell his name when a rest is needed. With Demko’s temperament, his natural ability, and the opportunity to snatch a job wide open; we’ll be seeing Demko man the crease full time in the not so distant future. Before we move to the backup tendy, here are some slick Demko highlights.

Backup

Michael DiPietro

(Photo credit: NHL.com)

Your backup goalie of the future has a sky high ceiling in his own right, but Michael DiPietro slots in behind Demko on our 2022-2023 roster. DiPietro ranks 7th on the Sporting News Canucks prospect list, only 4 spots behind Mr. Demko. Right now, DiPietro will be returning for another year of junior hockey with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for his 4th and final season in the CHL. Michael is another extremely athletic goaltender, but quite raw. He’ll need to hone himself to fully reach his ceiling. DiPietro’s numbers are down below.

(DiPietro’s stats, edited to start from his 1st year in the OHL, credit to eliteprospects.com)

Now, our 2017 3rd round pick hasn’t had quite the dominant resume that our starting goaltender has submitted, but thinking DiPietro doesn’t have high end potential would be quite the disservice to the Windsor native. To start, DiPietro increased his games played, SV% and decreased his GAA from 2015-16 to 2016-2017. That 2016-2017 season was captivated with DiPietro winning the Memorial Cup with the Spitfires! His numbers took a slight dip in his D+1 season, with Windsor trading away a fair share of their veteran players and forcing Michael into a less than ideal scenario. This didn’t seem to phase DiPietro quite as much as one would think, as he led the OHL with 7 shutouts and was named OHL Goaltender of the year. Before he found out about his OHL award, Michael was given the same opportunity that Demko was, and was named the 3rd string goaltender for Canada at this year’s World Championships behind Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney and Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

Looking ahead, DiPietro would be 23 for the full 2022-2023 season, and ideally will have played in the AHL for 3 seasons, dominating for 2 and then be called up to a backup role. In addition, he’d likely now be entering either his first full season as the backup to Demko. For Canucks fans, this season wouldn’t be the start of new goalie controversy, but might be the time the Canucks management team starts fielding offers for DiPietro or Demko if they see fit. I don’t believe that DiPietro will remain in a backup role, but will be perfectly suited there for his development.

All in all, there is a lot to like for the future of Canucks goaltending. Demko has shown flashes of being an elite goaltender, and I’ll go on record of saying that he’ll hit his ceiling. DiPietro would be getting starts in relief to help him adjust and grow his game in the NHL, hopefully pushing for a starting job in Vancouver, and forcing Vancouver to make a tough (Hopefully not as botched) decision in regards to who they move forward with through the late 2020’s. Now, it’s not the worst thing in the world if the Canucks feel they have to trade Demko or DiPietro, as Vancouver has another goalie prospect in Matthew Thiessen in the wings who won’t be too far off from stepping into the show. The certainty of the Canucks goaltending situation is an enviable one, and has set the Canucks up in goal for the foreseeable future.

  • PQW

    Guys, I’m afraid it’s pure delusion and fantasy on the part of armchair Canucks ‘fans’ to even consider Vancouver as a present or future SC contender in the making and here is why.

    The Western conference is full of powerhouse teams like Smashville, Vegas, Anaheim and Deadmonton (who will bounce back this season), who not only have elite teams on the ice NOW but better prospects in their system to integrate into better teams than the Ca-sucks.

    Further to this, you then have the East with the likes of Pittsburgh, Tampa, Boston, Washington and Toronto waiting for ya in the SC final if you can even get that far, The Canucks are nowhere near these kinds of teams!

    Yep, 2011 was the last chance to dance under the expert stewardship of GMMG, Larry Gilman and coach AV along with outstanding team depth and elite players in their prime (Sedins, Kes, Juice, Ehrhoff, Lu etc) and that’s why fans trashed the city because they knew it.

    Fact is fellas, we will NEVER see a Stanley Cup in Vancouver in our lifetime, especially under the laughably bad Benning clown show, as the last FIVE YEARS and counting have proven – guys there are just too many better teams and organisations in the league – FACT! Why can’t commenters here accept the truth… and MOVE ON.

    • Defenceman Factory

      The greatest expertise displayed by Gillis and Gilman was their ability to absolutely destroy the Canucks franchise while pursuing a cup with players all drafted by previous regimes. They burned this franchise to the ground and didn’t win. You can argue all the great contracts and minor acquisitions you want but they lost and their totally inept drafting left the cupboards bare.

          • Missing Burr

            Horvat and Tanev are regarded as the best players on the team now. Markstrom, Hutton and Gaunce are also regulars from the Gillis years and are no worse than Bennings aquisitions. Boeser is the only top Benning player on the current team, but it’s too early to set that in stone after just one season, so yah i agree with Goon.

          • Bud Poile

            “Hutton and Gaunce are also regulars from the Gillis years…”
            Gaunce 31 games played. 5 NHL goals at 24 years of age.
            Hutton sits in the press box waiting to be traded.6 NHL goals at 25 years of age.
            Tanev had 2 goals last year. Over 8 NHL seasons he has 18 goals.
            One Gillis drafted player that has met expectations over 6 NHL drafts and that player came at the loss of an NHL starting goaltender that spent five years being groomed in the Canucks system.
            The leading goalscorer on the Canucks was Brock Boeser,a rookie,Calder runner-up and NHL All-Star MVP.
            He’s the best forward and ,arguably, player on the Canucks.
            The leading Canucks d-man was Alex Edler whom was drafted in 2004 by Dave Nonis.
            Note the 14 year gap.
            The future is Boeser,Pettersson(# 1 NHL prospect),Juolevi,Hughes,Rathbone,Brisebois,Demko,Dahlen,Palmu,Gaudette,Lind,etc..
            All the future top players (with one exception) are from Benning/Linden.

        • Defenceman Factory

          What is your point Goon? Tanev and Horvat are great players. Are you proposing that because Gillis made a great UFA signing and gave away a top notch starting goalie for a first round draft pick this somehow makes up for not acquiring any other good players over his entire tenure? Markstrom, Gaunce and Hutton are mediocre players at best and all will soon be replaced by better players.

      • PQW

        When will you GET IT through your thick, ignorant skull that NHL GM of the year GMMG was brought on board by ownership to win NOW and put us over the hump after years of previous failures – a game seven cup final, six division titles, two Presidents trophies and a Western Conf title prove he did a fine job… and then GMMG drafted Bowie Horvat, our next Captain and top centre! Outstanding management.

        Guys, only perrenial bottomfeeders have the opportunity to build a winner/contender through the draft ala Chicago, Pittsburgh et al… how is that working out for the Ca-sucks five years in again…

        • Defenceman Factory

          He lost and destroyed the franchise doing it. You can argue Benning is a poor GM and that someone else would have rebuilt the team faster. Probably true. It doesn’t change the fact Gillis had completely destroyed it. Whoever the GM was over the last 4 years (not 5) had one of the biggest messes to clean up ever faced by a new GM. Gillis guaranteed the Canucks would be a perennial bottom feeder once his reign of error ended. This franchise would be in a lot different spot if Gillis had the slightest clue how to evaluate prospects. Maybe he would even still have a job in hockey.

          • Fred-65

            The very attempt to compare the Gillis era with the JB is a false equivalent. It reminds me of a child stomping it’s feet because it can’t have every thing it wants …. and now, right now. Sure 2011 was great but I want it to be great now as well. Vcr was so close so close, except for the likes of Kessler and Erhoff playing with seperated shoulder, Hamhuis taring a hip muscle, Edlers broken thumb, Rome being suspended for the longest suspension in SC history. Luongo didn’t help with his putting chesterfield rugby ahead of the SC. Gillis had the greatest success of any GM in Canucks history ( Game 7 SC + 2 Pres. Trophies) but even he ( accompanied by Torts) stated the club needed a rebuild and was thwarted by ownership. Before he was fired he started the process by trading a great goalie Schneider for Horvat, that was the start of the rebuild hampered continuously by Aquaman. Despite that the Horvat deal was a great trade and the signing of a NCAA FA Tanev proved to be the best moves for years and never repeated. To be honest if JB has selected draft picks other than Virtanen, McCann and Juolevi would have moved this franchise in a better direction. Right now JB has selected 6 first round picks and he has a 50% success rate

          • Defenceman Factory

            Well Fred I didn’t make any comparison between Benning and Gillis so not sure if you were referring to someone else. I am surprised however how readily those that attack Benning at every turn can so readily dismiss every bone head move Gillis made and there were several.

            The Tanev signing was a stellar move under Gillis. The Schneider trade was considered to be a poor return by virtually everyone at the time. It was particularly bad considering the situation it put the team in for a starting goalie. Water under the bridge, Horvat’s great and glad he’s here.

          • speering major

            Horvat turned out great but the Canucks didn’t even win that trade. The whole goaltending situation was a complete disaster from start to finish. They didn’t need to declare who they were going with and put the other tender on the block with lowered market value. They got a bad deal from Florida. They didn’t win the Schnieder trade. They could have shut up and dealt with the offers behind the scenes and it would have been better from a return perspective and for the team moving forward with the remaining goaltender.

            The draft record from Gillis was absolutely abysmal. It was so bad that a monkey throwing darts would have done better, and at worst been equal. Gillis brought in pieces to win and he iced a fantastic team for years, but he also had some major flaws. There’s just no excuse for his draft record. Shipping out both Luongo and Schnieder for that return was a total disaster. The biggest knock on Bennings draft resume is his lottery luck. Yes JV isn’t Nylander or Eihlers but he’s also just fine compared to picks 4,5, and 7. He’s an NHL player, not a bust. Oli isn’t anything to be proud of either compared to his class but he’s also far from a bust at this point. He may even realistically be a Hamhuis caliber D still. Taking Brock at #23, Petterson at #5, and Hughes at #7 is just great drafting. Add in Demko, Gaudette, Tryamkin, Lind, and you have to give Benning high marks for his draft success so far. You can’t bat a thousand and if a couple of your picks aren’t great that can be made up for with some steals. Brock, Petterson, and Demko could be core pieces to a team and were exceptional picks. These weren’t no-brainer lottery selections

          • Macksonious

            Making a comparison between Gillis and Benning is difficult because they each inherited the team under very different circumstances. Gillis’s 2008 team needed tweaks. Bennings 2014 team needed a rebuild. Gillis was up for success and Benning, for failure.

            Gillis’s mandate was simple, win now. Bennings was more complicated, try and win now, while also building for the future/restocking the cupboards. The latter task was very difficult to pull off.

            Funny how when the team performs well, a GM’s mistakes are often less scrutinized as opposed to when they don’t. It seems to influence some fans evaluation of their performance. On ice results are far easier to analyze rather than the extenuating circumstances surrounding it. I guess that’s just the reality of how it will effect some peoples perceptions.

            Thanks for reading.

          • TD

            The mistake Gillis made was poor drafting and not trading vets after the run for young players. Signing all the 2011 players to long contracts with no trades hurt badly and left the current mess.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            Gillis’ team was built almost entirely by Nonis and Burke. Not him. Honestly, if he was the genius that some on here make him out to be, don’t you think he’d have at least got a few job offers by now?

    • Whoa, lots to unpack here. I don’t think it’s complete fantasy that we have a future SC contender.

      Let’s start with the west, by 2022-2023 (timeframe the series is looking at), You are right to say that Vegas, Edmonton will be strong, as will the Winnipeg Jets. Anaheim by this time I think is in the decline, as will Nashville. One thing to point out, as per sporting news no WESTERN conference team has a better prospect pool than the Canucks.

      I will admit that Tampa, Boston, and Toronto are looking tough. Pittsburgh will still be strong but I don’t think they’ll be at the caliber of these 3 Atlantic powerhouses. This being said, when you get to the Stanley Cup final, it’s not necessarily the best team who wins. Both teams have a shot when you get to the finals.

      2011 was the latest, but the Canucks have some elite level prospects and denying that would be a disservice. (Pettersson, Boeser, Hughes, Horvat, Demko).

      Will it be tough to win the Stanley Cup, no question! I’m not here to pronounce the team Stanley cup champions. Is there reason to be optimistic despite the bleak state of the current roster, that I will say is 100% certain.

      Thanks for leaving the comment though, if you still believe the team has no shot we’ll just agree to disagree. Nothing wrong with stating your opinion. Have a great rest of your day!

    • crofton

      Unless you know better than the groups that have named Vancouver’s prospect pool as currently the 3rd best in the NHL, your trashing Vancouver’s chances of being a contender in 22/23 shows a serious lack of understanding. All the teams you mention will be on the decline by then, in fact a few are already, while Vancouver is rising. Benning doesn’t expect a contender this year or next, as do most of us peons, (that includes you) but in the time frame mentioned, most of the Beagles, Roussels et al will be replaced, and the 3rd best prospect pool in the NHL will have a chance to shine. Again, unless you know better. Somehow I seriously doubt that

    • MoeLemay

      Hey there fella…..
      I dont think you understand the point of the exercise…..
      Further more, you have no facts to support your ludicrous claims…..
      Edmonton elite?
      You can guarantee they will bounce back?…..
      Regardless, that is not what his article is about…..
      You dig?

  • Dan the Fan

    Yeah, the 2022/2023 season is the earliest chance the team has to be a contender. That’s when Eriksson, Roussel, Beagle, and Luongo’s contracts come of the books. The team doesn’t stand a change until Demko (or anyone) provides us with better-than-average goaltending. And by the time that happens, Eriksson, Rouseel, and Beagle won’t even be capable of playing on the fourth line. So then there will be another couple years wait until those contracts expire and almost $13mil in dead weight comes off the books. Contenders never have that sort of money tied up in sub-replacement level players.

      • No chance they take Eriksson unless the Canucks pay them to. Unlikely they take Beagle as there will certainly be better players available. The only one that has a chance to be taken I think is Roussel.

      • Dan the Fan

        I think Seattle is more likely to take a defenceman. Gudbranson will still be under contract, and I assume Taneve and Stetcher will be resigned. I think that OJ will need to be protected because he played in a pro league after signing his ELC, although I don’t know for certain.

        They could leave Stetcher unsigned until after the expansion draft and protect him that way. And they may have traded Tanev by then, or finally given up on Gudbranson. They might even opt to protect 4 defencemen at the cost of another forward. But if they leave Gudbranson exposed, I could see Seattle taking him over any of the exposed forwards. Even Pouliot is probably more attractive than Roussel at that point, if he’s still around.

        Protecting 4 defenceman means they’d only be able to protect 4 forwards. Horvat and Boeser are obvious locks, Baertschi, Virtanen and Gaudette are probably worth keeping, Dahlen might have to be protected, and they might want to keep “foundational” Sutter over Gudbranson.

        Even if they can protect all the defencemen worth keeping, I still think that Granlund, Goldobin Liepsig, or even Motte might be more attractive than Roussel, especially if he goal total in 2 years can still be counted on one hand.

      • Dan the Fan

        Roussel will be fine for the first half of his contract, but Demko isn’t likely to be a dominant starter for at least a couple more years. By then Roussel will be 30. He scored 5 goals last season, I don’t think he’s likely to beat that total 3 seasons from now. I’d expect that by that point, the team should have better options for a bottom 6 LW. The LW depth chart by that point could be Dahlen, Baertschi, Leipsic, Gadjovich. Then there’s Boeser, Lind, Virtanen, Jasek on the right. That’s assuming that the team has moved on from Goldobin, Granlund, Gaunce, and assuming that EP is playing C in a few years. The roster is crowded now even before most of the talent is ready for the NHL.

        Look how quick Jannik Hansen’s career ended. He was a better player at his peak than Roussel – 22 goals in 15/16, then 3 years later, he’s out of the league. Started getting healthy scratched at age 31. Guys who play in the bottom 6 most of their careers don’t usually play long into their 30s.

        It’s certainly possible that Roussel will still be a contributor in the last half of his contract, but I think the most likely outcome is that he’ll be a depth/role player.

        • Defenceman Factory

          You said Ericksson, Beagle and Roussel wouldn’t be capable of playing on the 4th line by the end or their contracts. I think Roussel could be fun to have around and maybe he gets in Gadjovich’s way in a couple years but I don’t think he will have no value at the end of his contract if he is still here. No one is going to mistake Roussel for a top 6 forward which is where the other 3 players you mention need to play.

          Roussel will be younger in 4 years than Beagle and Ericksson are now.

          • Dan the Fan

            I should have said that I don’t think they’d make it on a healthy roster in the last couple of years, but they could do fine as injury replacements.

            Eriksson is flat-out a better player, and better players have longer careers. He’s declining, but his peak was so much higher than Roussel, so he’s falling from a higher place.

            Beagle is one of the exceptions, a career 4th liner still playing in his 30s. But I think that playing on the 4th line of a great team can mask deficiencies. Tanner Glass was the best player on the 4th line in 2011 for most of the season. Having a strong d corps on the ice with you can help a lot. Beagle won’t have that here.

            Roussel is also a more physical player, and they tend to have shorter careers. There was a piece about that here at CA when there was talk of signing Lucic.That piece probably seems quite precipitant now.

    • Rayman

      yeah. sounds about right. If Benning wouldn’t give away another stupid contracts!

      But what are the chances of that?
      I really think JB should go back to just drafting and scouting. Good for both him and Canucks. And yeah, fans, too….

  • Defenceman Factory

    Thiessen could prove to be an absolute steal in last year’s draft. If he and DiPietro develop as hoped goaltending will definitely be a strength. I expect a future article will paint a less optimistic picture at rightD.

    • I’m going to be going through the entire forward/defense core for the team in 2022-2023, as well as the 7th/8th defenseman. RD doesn’t look as great as LD, but there are enough quality pieces to help compliment the strong left side. (Again, series is being optimistic and projecting these guys as hits instead of busts)

    • Thiessen was clearly the best goaltender in the MJHL based on GAA and save %. That said, it looks like he was on a stacked team that had 6 scorers in the Top 25 (on an 11 team league). The standings show that the Steinbach Pistons crushed everyone else.

      It will be interesting to see Thiessen’s stats and video highlights next year as the University of Maine was a mediocre performer last year. Maine has a few late round draft picks from Detroit but don’t appear to have much high-end talent.

  • TheRealPB

    Great article. Demko reminds me so much of Schneider in his trajectory and play and not just because they’re both Boston College alums. They both steadily improved in college and both struggled out of the gate in the AHL before dominating. Schneider’s first full season (as a backup) was age 24 and because of the situations with first Luongo and then Brodeur didn’t earn a real starting gig until age 28. So I’m not sure that we need (or really want) Demko to have had 3-4 years of being a starter at the point you’re saying, but a couple of years would be ideal since there isn’t a HoF goalie to push out of the way.

    It’s awesome that Team Canada included DiPietro on the WHC roster. He wasn’t going to make it into any games but just to have that experience, especially going into the WJC where he should be the starter is fantastic. Despite the tire fire at the NHL level it’s pretty impressive that the Canucks have blue chip prospects at every position. I’m trying to remember when we ever had that.

    • TheRealPB

      I also think Nilsson is due for a bounce-back year. He’s been generally lights-out at the AHL/KHL and not so great at the NHL, although two years ago he was pretty decent for a terrible Sabres team. I think more consistent starts would help; maybe 1 out of every 3 instead of such long stretches without a start.

    • LAKID

      You are kidding right? Nilsson hasn’t been able to win a job or keep one for that matter he couldn’t even beat Talbot out of a job. The Nuks goaltending is bad,the defence is bad and they have no offence. The only going for them is Benning should be fired before draft lottery!

  • Rodeobill

    Alright! Good article and it’s really nice to see someone talk about the team in a way we can be excited about. I look forward to the rest of this series!