Thatcher Demko was the perfect rookie back-up for the Vancouver Canucks this season, but is the 24-year-old goaltender ready to be an NHL starter?
The once top-rated North American goalie prospect has always had the confidence of his teammates and higher-ups, so if push comes to shove and the Canucks are stuck with a difficult goalie situation to sort out, is he ready for the next step of being the official number one?
Looking over the stats of the 2019-20 campaign, Demko played in 27 games, recording a win/loss record of 13-10-2 with a Goals Against Average of 3.06 and a healthy Save Percentage of 0.905. Not too bad considering he basically mirrored the statistics of his short 10-game appearance the year before. Combining his two years of NHL experience and Demko has racked up less than 40 professional games.
On top of proving he can maintain numbers above average in his first two seasons in net as a solid back-up, Demko proved he has the gas in the tank to face a barrage of firing pucks in the heat of battle. When Jacob Markstrom went down to injury late in the season, Demko was there to step up and light the way to playoff glory. That of course never happened due to the COVID-19 breakout, but Demko had some of his best performances through that hard-fought stretch of games.
With the playoff picture at stake and injuries piling up, Demko was a wall and did everything in his power to keep the team alive. The final game before the NHL season was actually his best. With each passing game, Demko was getting more settled, more comfortable and it showed. He shook off the incredibly bad luck of bouncing goals and posted the best game of his life. He stopped 45 of 49 shots putting up a brick wall to earn the win versus the New York Islanders.
So does 37 NHL starts prove he has what it takes to be an NHL starter? Personally, I wouldn’t throw his to the sharks to fend for himself just yet, but next season he will be seeing a bump in playing time with the goal that he can compete and eventually overtake the starting role.
Could Demko be the starter next season? Yes. Should he be? Not if he doesn’t have to be. Not yet.