As the NHL season begins, most teams have decided on their primary roles. On the other hand, the Vancouver Canucks still need to address a significant problem in the net. The choice won’t reveal much about this season, in contrast to what happens on defense or with the forwards.
Goaltending for the Vancouver Canucks is in doubt
However, it will shape the team’s future. What the Vancouver Canucks goaltenders had previously taken comfort in only appears definite up close. Fans in Vancouver have witnessed Thatcher Demko become the Canucks’ starter over the previous two seasons.
The end of Jacob Markstrom’s first year brought a breath of relief because he took with him any safety net Demko had. As a substitute for Demko, however, two veterans were successively hired. Unfortunately, Braden Holtby didn’t pan out, and the old general manager’s desperation was evident when Holtby was purchased the next year.
The team nonetheless managed to sign the perfectly respectable Jaroslav Halák, whose bonuses they are currently paying for, despite having somewhat fewer alternatives for 2021–22. It was assumed that the squad was awaiting Michael DiPietro’s development.
But, at least as of yet, he hasn’t. He was prevented from obtaining ice time in any league after the unfortunate choice to relocate him to Vancouver for the “COVID season” of 2020–21. Yes, he had the opportunity to train with renowned goalie coach Ian Clark that year.
However, the 21-year-old only participated in four AHL games that were competitive. In any sport, practice can only go so far in preparing a player. Hockey in particular is a chaotic game where even the best-laid strategies can go awry due to the opposition and blind luck.
Most likely, it’s not Spencer Martin, who the Canucks acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning for free. He has been a charming tale, scoring for the team in each of his six Canucks starts, but he is also 27 years old. He’s not exactly a youthful up-and-comer, but his two-season contract provides tremendous value and can be easily buried if he performs poorly.
Even with the signing of veteran Collin Delia by the Canucks, he is facing some competition for the backup position. The problem with any newcomer to Vancouver is that Clark has a very rigid and exacting system. It takes some time to become used to it and learn it.
Dell discussed how he now has to think about modifying how his skates are polished to fit Clark’s approach in an interview with Kevin Woodley of In Goal Magazine. Learning your defensemen’s personalities and styles of the play takes time, but that is a universal process.
Everyone who transfers to an NHL team from the AHL must understand that. Delia needs to pick up information quickly if he wants to force Martin out. DiPietro and Arturs Silovs are the only remaining realistic choices for future Vancouver Canucks goalies.
While a star in the OHL, DiPietro was somewhat of a high-risk, high-reward selection. He achieved the third-best save % and led the OHL in shutouts at the age of just 17. He was selected by Vancouver that year in the third round. Even though he played even better in the playoffs, he didn’t go past the opening round until his final season, when he was traded to the Ottawa 67s.
Unfortunately for Ottawa, the only thing that ended his 13-0-1 streak was an injury. Guelph won the OHL championship without him, winning 4-2. So, yes, DiPietro has earned his hype. He is only 6 feet tall, so there are always issues about smaller goaltenders who rely on athleticism.
It didn’t help that he had to play in the NHL much before he was ready due to poor economics and poor planning. Nobody wanted to make their NHL debut against the team with the second-highest scoring average, but it was inevitable. Three years later, he made his following start against a similarly potent offense.
While he did better, it was still a disappointing result to see three goals on 17 shots. In the AHL, DiPietro has produced respectable but unspectacular results. However, he doesn’t appear to have developed past his excellent professional first season. Spencer Martin, who is currently occupying the NHL backup position, far outperformed him. Although Vancouver has given his agent permission to pursue a trade with another team, they won’t part with him.
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