2023-24 Canucks Predictions: A healthy Thatcher Demko finally breaks into the Vezina conversation
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
26 days ago
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2022-23 was a year to forget for Thatcher Demko. This season hopefully will be the exact opposite.
When last season opened, Demko hadn’t fully recovered from an injury he’d suffered in the final weeks of 2021-22. And it snowballed into a dreadful start for both the Canucks and their superstar goalie. Once he started getting back on track Demko suffered a groin injury against the Panthers in December, sidelining him until late February, when the Canucks playoff hopes were already long gone.
This season, Demko’s not just arriving in Vancouver with a chip on his shoulder, but also a clean bill of health. And that hopefully will translate into a campaign a lot closer to his 33-win season two years ago.
Demko has been a dark horse candidate for the Vezina Trophy in seasons past, but the competition is getting stiffer league-wide. The Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin and the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin have been regular finalists in the last few years. Defending champ Linus Ullmark is coming off a season for the ages in Boston. And you can’t count out perennial candidates like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Juuse Saros and Connor Hellebuyck.
But the stars might be aligning for Demko to finally get his league-wide due, especially if the Canucks can squeak their way into the playoffs.
Even with the increased depth on defence and skill on offence, the Canucks’ chances at a postseason berth still hinge entirely on Demko’s ability to steal as many games as possible. Rick Tocchet’s squad is still a big distance behind the true Cup contenders talent-wise, but Demko’s elite goaltending is the potential great equalizer.
If the San Diego native can recapture his .915 save percentage form from 2021-22 and punch above it, Demko could absolutely wind up as a Vezina finalist. We already saw a sneak peek of it in the home stretch last year, when he returned from his midseason injury.
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In his final 17 appearances of the season Demko and the Canucks lost just four games in regulation, putting up a .918 save percentage and earning a shutout against the Blackhawks in the process. And that was after sitting out for months with little on-ice practice time in between.
This summer, Demko has had a full offseason to work on his game and will be enter the season as fresh as an NHLer can be. If all goes according to plan, he’ll undoubtedly end up in the conversation as one of the top goalies in the league.
Will that all translate into a Vezina Trophy for Demko this season? It’s impossible to say, and his elite counterparts across the NHL aren’t going to make things any easier on him. But he reaches the potential both he and the Canucks feel he’s capable of, there won’t just be a potential playoff berth on the horizon. Thatcher Demko will earn a lot of people’s award votes come the springtime, too.
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