Canucks goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko is the real deal

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Image: Boston College Athletics

Canucks goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko is off to a fantastic start for Boston College this year, as he looks to build on an already impressive NCAA career.

The San Diego native has been lights-out so far this season, leading Boston College to their best defensive start in 94 years competing in varsity hockey. Demko has not allowed a goal in the last 196 minutes and 58 seconds.

Demko was selected 36th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks after a successful rookie year at Boston College where he had a 16-5-3 record with 2.24 GAA and 0.919 SV%. Expected to be a first round pick by many experts including Bob McKenzie, who had him ranked 27th, Demko may have slipped into the early second round due to a nagging hip issue that required surgery.

Ultimately, the Canucks and Demko decided to not go through with surgery in the summer of 2014. During the 2014-15 season, while battling the affects of the nagging hip injury, Demko improved on his rookie stats by posting a 2.19 GAA and 0.925 SV%.

Image: NHL

Image: NHL

He further stepped up his game while representing the United States at the 2015 World Junior Championships, where he started seven of their eight games finishing with a 1.74 GAA and 0.938 SV%. He was particularly impressive in the Canada-USA matchup on New Years Eve, where he stopped 40 of 43 shots.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__u4FhE8noU

 

Following the NCAA season, Demko underwent double hip labrum surgery. I reached out to Kevin Woodley, a well known goalie expert from Vancouver who writes for InGoal Magazine and NHL.com, to provide some insight into the injury, why surgery was put off and what benefits the surgery will provide Demko with going forward:

The human hip was not made to internally rotate on its own, so if you have any imperfections on the top of your femur, it will start to carve out cartilage or cause tearing. It got to the point where Demko had 0 degrees of internal rotation on one side.

This meant that Thatcher had no butterfly flare and so to compensate he had his knee stack on his pads built up to relieve tension and give a wider butterfly. But because of the injury he had no range of motion in terms of extending and it was hard to kick out pucks.

The Canucks knew of the injury when they drafted him but thought that he could get through the year without getting the surgery done. They didn’t think it would deteriorate enough to force the surgery, but were hoping they could wait to get it done when it made sense time-wise.

Demko had surgery on both hips to ensure that he was fully healthy. By doing so, it allows a wider butterfly, more flexibility, less fear of injury going forward and able to remove all wear and tear already there.

The fact that he was able to have the success he had with that limited range of motion he had through his hips, knowing how important that is, is remarkable.

Recovering from hip surgery over the summer limited his training and practice, so a slow start would’ve been expected. Although Demko hasn’t faced the toughest competition so far this year, getting off to this hot start will allow him to build some confidence to help Boston College challenge for the NCAA title. Boston College is currently ranked 4th in the latest NCAA rankings, and Demko will play a huge part in their success.

For Demko individually, he will look to add to his shutout streak this Friday against the University of Denver and become the first Boston College goaltender to post four straight shutouts. Demko was the first Boston College goaltender to post three shutouts in a row since former Canucks and current New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.

Furthermore, if Demko can post a shutout on Friday, he will break the Boston College’s record of 254:23 without surrounding a goal, which was completed by Scott Clemmenson in 1997-98.

Image: NHL

Image: NHL

Canucks fans should be excited about the progress that the organization’s top goaltending prospect has made since being drafted. However, that excitement should be met with the same level of patience, as goaltenders generally take longer to make it to the NHL, and Demko likely isn’t an exception to this.

Former first round pick Cory Schneider put up similar numbers at Boston College from 2004 to 2007 before turning pro and joining the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. Schneider then spent almost 3 full years in the AHL before finally landing a full time spot with the Canucks in 2010. He went through some growing pains adjusting to the speed, schedule and talent level of the AHL.

If Demko does choose to turn pro at the end of this season and forego his senior year, he will step into a perfect situation in Utica. Schneider was mentored by AHL veterans like Drew Macintyre and Curtis Sanford, Demko would have that with Richard Bachman next year.

Bachman was signed to a two-year this summer to help stabilize the crease in Utica, and it appears he could take Demko under his wing next year. It would allow the 2014 2nd round pick to begin his pro career with less pressure and give him time to focus on developing his own game.

If Demko can continue to use Schneider’s path as a guide, the Canucks may just have their goaltender of the future.

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Ryan Biech Hockey writer for Vancity Buzz
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