Vancouver Canucks: Thatcher Demko Won’t Be in the NHL Next Season

Sep 30, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) against Calgary Flames during a preseason hockey game at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) against Calgary Flames during a preseason hockey game at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko is starting to shine in the AHL. But no matter how well he plays, he won’t make the jump to the NHL next year.

Two weeks ago, Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden made some waves in a Sportsnet interview:

"Is Jacob Markstrom your No. 1 goalie of the future?We definitely feel he has a chance. The succession plan: Ryan [Miller] may be back next year. We’re not sure. He’s a free agent. Jacob, we feel can be a No. 1 goalie, and we got Demko in Utica. It depends on his development. Goaltenders take a little more time."

A lot of fans were taken off guard at the idea that Vancouver might re-sign Ryan Miller. Miller will be 37 to start next season. Most believed this season the Canucks would begin handing over the starter’s job to heir apparent Jacob Markstrom.

More from Editorials

So far, that hasn’t been the case. Although Miller has only started one more game than Markstrom, he has missed time here and there. When both goalies are healthy, the Canucks are choosing to give the older goalie the bulk of the starts.

It’s not clear whether management believes Markstrom will take over as the starting goaltender next season.

However, many fans are more concerned about what this means for prized goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko. After an outstanding two years at Boston College, Demko signed with Vancouver this offseason. He started slow with the Utica Comets, but has found his game in the last few weeks. Today, he looks to be on the fast track to the NHL. Many fans are hoping he will be with the big club full-time in the near future.

But let’s be clear on one thing: Demko will not be with the Canucks next season.

Related Story: Open Letter to Thatcher Demko

Comparing Demko to Schneider

Demko’s career so far has been a virtual copy of another one-time Canuck, Cory Schneider. Both are American goaltenders who spent three record-breaking seasons at Boston College before signing with Vancouver.

Schneider found immediate success with the Manitoba Moose (the Canucks’ AHL affiliate at the time). In his first season, he played 36 games with a 2.28 goal-against average and .916 save-percentage.

Yet even after playing so well his first year, he didn’t make the jump to the big leagues the following season. Instead, he stayed in the AHL for the next two seasons, and only played a handful of games for the Canucks in that span.

When he finally did become a full-time NHL goalie, he shared the Jennings trophy with Roberto Luongo for the league’s best team save-percentage.

No matter how touted a prospect is, they can still benefit from extended time in the AHL. We saw it with Schneider, and we are seeing it again with Jake Virtanen. There is no rush to get Demko to the NHL; in the long run, it is best if he sticks with the Utica Comets for at least one more season.

Related Story: Demko Succeeding with Utica

While they were waiting on Schneider, the Canucks went through a number of veteran backups: Andrew Raycroft, Jason LaBarbera and Curtis Sanford. All of them were signed to cheap, short-term contracts. None of them had to put up amazing numbers. All they had to do was give Luongo the occasional night off, and fill in until Schneider was ready.

The Plan for Next Season

That is what the Canucks will — and should — do for next season.

The may not have to bring in anyone new. Richard Bachman is under contract for next season. While he will be exposed in the Vegas expansion draft, there is a good chance he will passed over. In that case, the Canucks may offer him the backup job.

Otherwise, on July 1st there will be 29 free agent goalies on the market. With league-average save percentage currently sitting at .914, they don’t need to sign an expensive veteran or an all-star. Average will do just fine.

But if the Canucks cannot bear to let Miller go, they can sign him to another deal. But it had better be a short one, and a cheap one as well.

Next: Rodin Ready for Game Action

Regardless, Demko will spend next season developing in the AHL, just as Schneider did before him. It worked superbly in Schneider’s case, and it should work just as well for Demko. By the time he arrives in the NHL he should be at the top of his game.

The Vancouver Canucks may re-sign Miller. If they do, he won’t be stealing an NHL job from Demko. For the next season, the Utica Comets is the best place for Demko. There’s no rush.