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Will Thatcher Demko push for the Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 job next season?

August 12, 2019, 11:49 AM ET [534 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
A few interesting Canucks tidbits surfaced over the weekend, so I'll put the prospect profiles on hold for now and start the week on a newsy note.

First off—I saw a bit of an online uproar that seems to have been triggered by this Tweet:

I'm not fussed about this. We've seen over the years that the Canucks like to kick the tires on most every big name that's rumoured to be on the move. Rarely does anything come to fruition.

Given Vancouver's now-tight salary-cap situation, I'd be tempted to think that any conversation like this might have happened before J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland were signed — or else the Canucks are asking the Leafs to take on the contracts of Loui Eriksson and/or Brandon Sutter to make the money work in getting a deal done.

Also - a note of clarification. Even though the Canucks committed a first-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the J.T. Miller trade, they could theoretically still present an offer sheet to a high-tier player like Marner. As Dan Rosen of NHL.com points out in this article, the four first-round picks that a team would be required to surrender can be pulled from the next five seasons, so the Canucks do have enough resources to make an offer sheet happen.

Regardless, I'm pretty sure this is a red herring. Despite all the drama, I expect Marner will re-up with the Leafs — although maybe not until closer till the beginning of the season. We're now barely a month away from the beginning of training camp. I wonder if the rest of this year's unsigned RFA class will continue to wait for Marner to set the market? If even one player decides that he wants contract certainty heading into the new season and signs his deal, I could see a bunch of dominoes falling in quick succession.

Second—after putting Elias Pettersson on their list of the NHL's top centres last week, NHL Network has continued to crank out more list over the last few days.

No Vancouver representation on their list of top wingers, released Sunday, but the Canucks did show up as the team with the sixth-best prospect pipeline.

The focus here is on the two players who should make an immediate impact on the big club next season—Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko.

I feel like it's premature for them to be postulating about whether Demko can take over the No. 1 job this season. Jacob Markstrom took such a big step last year while working with goaltending coach Ian Clark. I'm looking forward to seeing if he can match that performance or even continue his growth—and he'll be motivated, since he's just one year away from unrestricted free agency.

Markstrom did get his first-ever Vezina Trophy vote last season. Unlike most of the NHL Awards, which are voted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and which includes a ranking of the top five candidates, the Vezina is voted by NHL's general managers, who pick their top three candidates. Only 12 goalies received votes this year. Markstrom's single third-place vote may not seem like much, but it put him in very good company, in a tie for 10th with Anaheim's John Gibson and Toronto's Freddy Andersen.

I'm not sure if GMs are allowed to vote for their own goalies—I would think not? If Markstrom's vote came from an opposing general manager, here are the most likely candidates, based on his performances against their teams last season. I think my money's on Dallas, considering the shot volume Markstrom faced in his two wins over the Stars.

Dallas Stars: 2-0-0, 1.85 GAA, .953 save percentage, 86 shots against
St. Louis Blues: 2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .962 save percentage, 53 shots against
Philadelphia Flyers: 1-1-0, 1.53 GAA, .952 save percentage, 62 shots against
Minnesota Wild: 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .949 save percentage, 39 shots against
New York Rangers: 1-1-0, 1.53 GAA, .939 save percentage, 49 shots against

Click here to see all Markstrom's splits from last season.

My point here—Markstrom's career is on the upswing. He turns 30 in January, so he'll probably be looking for the biggest possible payday on his next deal.

As I've discussed before—there was talk during the season that the Canucks wanted to extend Markstrom on July 1. If Demko has a decent season? At worst, that'll give Jim Benning some leverage in negotiations. Best-case scenario, if Demko and Markstrom both do well next season, that could give Benning the chance to offload Markstrom for significant assets at the trade deadline—although if both goalies do well, that also probably means that the Canucks are in playoff position and will probably want to keep their team strong as they push for the postseason...

It seems like Demko has been in the pipeline forever. Drafted in 2014, he turns 24 this December. In that respect, his time is now.

The goalie landscape may also be influenced by how Mikey DiPietro does in his first pro season in Utica. I can understand why NHL Network didn't include two goalies on its list, but I think DiPietro could be a big story this season.

In addition to Demko and Hughes, NHL Network suggests that the Canucks' next wave of promising prospects are all two years away—Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander and Tyler Madden. I'm happy to see Madden on this list—and with any luck, Will Lockwood will have a strong senior year at Michigan and push himself into the conversation for next season.

The Canucks' CHL prospects like Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich and Jett Woo all have some work to do this season if they want to re-insert themselves into the conversation. And here's hoping this is finally the year for Olli Juolevi to start making some real forward progress toward reaching the NHL. It's not out of the question—last fall, he had a good start in Utica and was on his way to an NHL call-up before suffering that season-ending knee injury.

The Canucks ranked second on this list last year, with Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette and Jonathan Dahlen highlighted along with Demko, Hughes and Juolevi.

Finally, I'll wrap up today with this news out of the Sunshine State:

I imagine Roberto Luongo got to choose the date for his jersey retirement. Interesting that it'll come when the Panthers host Montreal, not Vancouver.

This announcement raises two big questions:

• Should Luongo's No. 1 be retired here in Vancouver?

• If so, should the Canucks add that ceremony to their list of 50th anniversary celebration nights next season? Or would it be more fitting to wait until after the three years of Luongo's $3 million cap-recapture penalties have passed?
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