Once upon a time, the Vancouver Canucks had one of the hottest up-and-coming goalie prospects in the world in Thatcher Demko. The San Diego, CA native finally broke out as a full-time starter in 2019 – five years after being drafted – then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
By the time Demko was ready to be the starter for the Canucks, he had to play though two shortened seasons, and was nearly unbeatable in the only NHL playoff appearances of his career. In 2019-20, Demko went 2-1-0 in four playoff games with a 0.64 goals against average (GAA) and a jaw-dropping 0.985 save percentage.
The Canucks’ star netminder wouldn’t get a taste of a ‘real’ NHL starter’s workload until the 2021-22 season, where he appeared in 64 games and posted a 33-22-7 record. Despite playing in the overwhelming majority of games, Demko only recorded one shutout and had a 0.915 save percentage. Last year, injuries decimated the 27-year-old’s season, limiting him to only 32 games and causing a substantial dip in his level of performance. He did, however, rebound nicely to finish the year.
This season, the Canucks will effectively have their second season of a healthy Demko as their full-time starter, and so far, he’s been excellent. Demko has lacked goal support and complimentary defense – evidenced by his 1-2-0 record – but he does have a 0.930 save percentage and an average GAA of 2.57.
As far as winning the Vezina Trophy goes, though, Demko will need to remain healthy and continue to perform well, and he also might need to will the Canucks to the postseason. The only goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy (since it was changed in 1982) and miss the playoffs was Sergei Bobrovsky in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Demko does have the advantage of Andrei Vasilevskiy being out injured for a long period of time as he recovers from a recent surgery, while other Vezina contenders, like Ilya Sorokin and Juuse Saros, play for teams of a caliber similar to the Canucks. And, the Canucks’ shot-stopper trailed Sorokin by only 13 votes in the 2021-22 Vezina voting.
There is absolutely a way for Demko to snatch his first Vezina Trophy and cement himself in Canucks lore alongside former Vancouver greats like Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Neither Luongo nor Schneider were able to capture the esteemed reward – on the Canucks or otherwise – leaving Demko the opportunity to do something truly special.