On Saturday, we told you that Jaroslav Halak was the perfect signing for the Vancouver Canucks to make.
This is largely due to the fact that nobody truly knows for certain where prospect goaltender Michael DiPietro is at in his developmental journey.
The 22-year-old spent most of last season on the taxi squad, but there are other reasons the Halak signing was a good one as well, the rest of which you can read about here.
DiPietro describes himself as an impatient person, and impatience certainly isn’t a bad thing in this case. As one might expect, DiPietro described being on the taxi squad all season as one of the toughest things he’s ever had to go through mentally in his career.
This year though? DiPietro is confident as ever in his abilities, and he’s ready to make it crystal clear to the organization where he’s at in his development.
“My focus is just going to camp and making it tough on Vancouver to send me down,” DiPietro told CanucksArmy. “It’s a little bit of a different mindset this year. There’s more business and I really am motivated to kind of put a really good foot forward and really prove myself.”
While many have already decided that going to Abbotsford and getting a ton of games in at the AHL level is what’s best for DiPietro’s development, he has other ideas.
“I’m hungry to continue to get better. I laugh at people when they think they know what’s best for me because, at the end of the day, I don’t play hockey to be second best or play in the second-best league. My dream is to play in the NHL. If I just go to camp and concede and just be like, ‘okay, well I’m going to the American Hockey League, let’s just kind of run through the motions,’ then I shouldn’t even be at camp. My job at camp is to make it hard on them, and show them what I’m about.”
“You can use my age and say ‘oh you’re still young, you can still grow, you can have time in the American League this season.’ I’m not delicate. I’m not 19 anymore. I’m not that same goalie who let in seven goals against the San Jose Sharks at 19. I’m a mature young adult and I’m here to make it hard on them and I know what’s best for me at the end of the day. Like Clarkie [Vancouver goaltending coach Ian Clark] and Sandman [Abbotsford goalie coach Curtis Sanford] always say, you’re your best goalie coach — they can only help you along the way.”
“I know what I need to do. I’ll work hard during the season wherever I am and just continue to get better and grow. It’s a big year for myself and I’m excited.”
Of course, the no-movement clause on Jaroslav Halak’s contract is the biggest inhibitor that will keep DiPietro in Abbotsford barring an injury to either Demko or Halak, as Halak isn’t going down to the minors — or even getting traded — without giving the Canucks permission to do so.
“I’m a very impatient person. I want things done yesterday and so for myself, it’s really important to continue to grow and to trend in the right direction,” added DiPietro.
“It’s funny he uses that word,” said goaltending coach Ian Clark of DiPietro’s impatience. “On the one hand, he has that impatience in his mental game — he’s impatient in the sense that he wants it today. And yet, when he’s on the ice, he’s a very patient goalie in the sense of, he never commits before that shooter, and so it’s a bit it’s interesting that he uses that terminology because he wants to be at the pinnacle now. Of course, I always tell goaltenders that there is no pinnacle, we’re always climbing and striving for more. He wants to make the Canucks out of camp. I think that drives him and this is all incredibly positive stuff.”
That impatience extends to how he absorbs information and new philosophies and immediately implements them into his game. After speaking to Ian Clark, Curtis Sanford, and DiPietro himself, the common theme that was brought up was Mikey’s willingness and commitment to implementing new tactics into his game immediately.
“You start showing him video of himself, and then you start showing him video of other guys, and you start allowing it to make sense to him,” said Sanford, who coached DiPietro in Utica. “He’s going to have that figuring out the process, and he’s going to be the one that makes that decision. Whether it’s like, ‘yeah I’m all in’ or ‘oh no, I’m not sure,’ and maybe he gets halfway there and then reverts back. We never had that with Michael. With him it was like, ‘I get it, I see it and I’m gonna do this.’ He was all in right from the beginning. And that’s why the implementation was so quick.”
DiPietro is a tireless worker and understands that if he wants to make the changes effectively, he’s going to have to put in that work.
“I’ve worked with some of the hardest working goaltenders probably in the history of the game,” said Ian Clark. “Roberto Luongo is an incredible worker, Sergei Bobrovsky’s work habits are legendary, and to be honest with you, Mike DiPietro’s work habits are certainly right up there with some of the top goalies and top workers that I’ve had the privilege of working with.”
“Impatience is a big driver for him, a big motivator for him. It drives him on a daily basis to attain the trajectory that’s going to get him to the heights that he wants to be at,” added Clark. “Whatever happens in camp — if he comes into camp and is the best version of Michael DiPietro that we’ve ever seen, that’s fantastic for the Vancouver Canucks. Whatever happens in camp is going to happen in camp, but at the end of the day, this is the kind of mentality that puts him on such a high trajectory, which is fantastic.”
“I would certainly never count out Michael DiPietro, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has ever spoken to him that would,” noted Clark.
It’s nearly impossible for DiPietro to make the Vancouver Canucks out of training camp for reasons beyond his control.
Regardless, the young goaltender is entering camp with the mentality of showing everyone who didn’t get a chance to see him play last year — again, for reasons beyond his control — that he’s ready for the flashing lights and the big stage of the NHL right now.