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Photo Credit: © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Prospects Rankings #4: Mikey DiPietro needs to be playing games as soon as possible

The point of doing these prospects rankings was to get a feel for how the 2020-21 season has affected the Vancouver Canucks’ prospects and then to rank them from what we have seen over the past six months.

Goaltender Mikey DiPietro has not played in one game over the past six months. In fact, it’s been over a year since DiPietro has gotten into game-action.

This definitely has the potential to slow his development, despite getting a ton of time with goaltending coach Ian Clark. As a 21-year-old developing goaltender, there are not many better goalie minds to be around than Clark. The problem still remains that DiPietro is not playing in any game action and has been unable to test the tweaks and positional changes that he and Clark have made to his game.

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DiPietro is coming off of a 2019-20 season in which he became the outright starter with the Utica Comets in the AHL and put together a strong season that saw him finish with a 21-11-2 record while sporting a 2.79 goals-against average to go with his 0.908% save percentage.

It’s truly one of the biggest mysteries in this Canucks organization.

Aside from a handful of folks working with DiPietro, nobody really knows what this game-less year has done to his game. He is one of the hardest-working players to come through the Canucks organization in the past five years. The stories of him putting in extra ice time on his own to run his own goalie drills have been followed closely by InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley.

Woodley also brought a cool tidbit to a recent NHL dot com article.

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DiPietro started this season with “Take it 1 puck at a time” written on his blocker. It is advice he picked up from Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Curtis McElhinney when they roomed together at the 2018 World Hockey Championship. By the time he was called up to the Canucks from Utica of the American Hockey League three months ago, DiPietro had a new blocker and a new message: “WIN,” or “What’s Important Now.”

Taking it one puck at a time is all DiPietro can do right now. What’s important now is him getting into some game action. We are about to see the Canucks play a ton of games in the remainder of the season and DiPietro is here in case one of the two goaltenders on the roster goes down.

There is reason to believe in some of the rumours that the Canucks are attempting to get the Seattle Kraken to take on Braden Holtby and his contract for next season. This opens up the door for DiPietro to move into a backup role behind the recently signed Thatcher Demko. It wouldn’t shock me to see DiPietro get into an NHL game one way or another this season. Even if he gets into a few NHL games this season, it feels like it’s a lost year of development for the kid.

I’m sure he has learned a lot from his time with Ian Clark but when you get lots of coaching help without game action to test it, it gets to a point where DiPietro is just getting help on becoming a goalie coach when he eventually retires from his playing career.

The Canucks have blown this year of development for DiPietro and though it likely won’t ruin him as a prospect, it definitely hurts the growth that we had seen from him last season.

We will continue to follow the DiPietro situation as the season goes on but today’s prospect ranking report isn’t loaded with info because we haven’t seen him play at all.

There is still a lot of NHL potential for DiPietro. It’s sad how quickly his impressive rookie AHL season became a distant memory but he will be back in action somewhere next season and it could very likely be at the NHL level as a backup goalie. This could be a rush for DiPietro, who would have benefitted a ton from getting into AHL action this year.

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It’s a mystery to understand where DiPietro is in his development toward becoming an NHL goalie. His current track record suggests he could be ready for that as soon as next season. He really could have used this year to see some more game action and get the feel from the adjustments he has made from working with Clark.

If DiPietro doesn’t hop right into the NHL next season, he will be an easy decision to use as the backup goaltender once Holtby’s contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.

The kid is on his way to being an NHL goalie, he’s just been hurt by the organization’s decisions for his placement and lack of deployment this season. Exactly how much it’s hurt his development remains to be seen.