How good can Canucks super prospect Thatcher Demko be?

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The Canucks signed the most hyped goaltending prospect in team history yesterday, inking Thatcher Demko to a three-year entry-level deal that carries a $925,000 cap hit.

When you take into account his performance and signing bonuses, his deal is the seventh richest among active players not drafted in the first round.

The signing that our own Ryan Biech confirmed first yesterday, allowed Canucks Nation to breathe a sigh of relief, as Demko could have become an unrestricted free agent after next season had he chosen to play his senior year at college.

Boston College Athletics / Facebook

SEE ALSO: Canucks sign top prospect Thatcher Demko

Barring an injury to Ryan Miller or Jacob Markstrom, Demko won’t see any NHL action next season.

“There’s no question, he’ll be in Utica next year” Trevor Linden said. “We want him to get playing and working with our people.”

But after that? The sky’s the limit.

Demko, who won’t turn 21 until December, has posted eye-popping numbers in college hockey and this last year was his best. He posted a 27-8-4 record last season with a 1.88 GAA and .935 SV%. To put that in perspective, in Cory Schneider’s last year of NCAA hockey, also with Boston College, he was 29-12-1 with a 2.15 GAA and a .925 SV%.

Does that mean that Demko is definitely going to be better than Schneider? Of course not, but it’s a good sign.

“Jim (Benning) obviously felt he had the opportunity to be a number-one goaltender, we still feel very much that way” said Linden. “He’s had a tremendous college career and to get this done is really encouraging and for him to get to start his pro career is exciting.”

Demko ranks favourably when compared to other current starting goalies that went the college route:

Goalie
Best NCAA season (SV%)
Ryan Miller 0.950
Jimmy Howard 0.956
Brian Elliott 0.938
Thatcher Demko 0.935
Cory Schneider 0.930
Jonathan Quick 0.929
Cam Talbot 0.925
Ben Bishop 0.920

With Ryan Miller’s contract expiring after next season, if Demko performs well in his rookie year in the AHL, the young phenom could be an NHL goalie by 2017-18. Although that is very much a best-case scenario.

Goalies take time to develop and Demko isn’t likely to be the saviour right away.

“We saw this development model and curve with a young Cory Schneider” said Linden. “There’s a big step between playing collegiate hockey and the American Hockey League obviously (with) the shooters and the pace of play. He’s got all the tools and it’s just a matter of him getting up to speed. So we need to be patient with him, obviously, and next year is going to be a big year for him.”

It took Cory Schneider six years from the time he was drafted before he became an NHL regular, although the Canucks were extra patient with him given they had Roberto Luongo. The development of Jacob Markstrom could affect how soon Demko gets a look also.

But it’s important to note, for every goalie like Patrick Roy, who won a Conn Smythe Trophy at age 20, there are hundreds more that need a lot more time. Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, two of the best goalies of their generation, became starters age 21. Carey Price was 20. Jonathan Quick was 22. Henrik Lundqvist was 25.

Dominik Hasek was 28.

What does the future hold for Demko? We’ll see.

The Canucks, as a franchise, have failed to draft, develop, and implement a starting goalie for a prolonged period of time. Cory Schneider is the all-time franchise wins leader among Canucks draft picks, and he played fewer than 100 games with Vancouver. After that, we need to look to goalies like Glen Hanlon (43 wins), Frank Caprice (31), and Troy Gamble (22).

So it’s no surprise that the Canucks will be preaching patience with Demko. We’ll start seeing how patient fans will need to be starting next season.

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
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