It was a little over a week ago, on Feb. 11, 19-year-old Michael DiPietro made his NHL debut for the Vancouver Canucks against the San Jose Sharks. A third-round pick of the Canucks (64th overall) DiPietro had already seen one change in colours this season when his former junior club, the Windsor Spitfires, moved the young goaltender to the Ottawa 67’s in a deal that made the 67’s one of the top teams in the OHL.
In desperate need of a goaltender, the Canucks decided to call up the native of Windsor, Ontario, on an emergency basis, according to Rob Williams at the Vancouver Daily Hive.
By exercising Article 13.12(m) of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Canucks had to prove that they did not have two healthy goaltenders in order to call up DiPietro, tweeted Ryan Biech of Sportsnet 650 and The Athletic.
What Happened Next?
The debut was anything but enjoyable for the young goalie who was shelled for seven goals and lost the game 7-2 – giving up three goals in the first nine minutes. The Canucks left the rookie in for all seven goals on just 24 shots against giving him a debut with a 7.00 goals against average and an abysmal .708 save percentage.
While many have written about how the Canucks hung DiPietro out to dry, including The Athletic and Sportsnet, I want to talk about how this young man will overcome his forgettable debut.
Sure, I agree that the Canucks may have fired a shot at DiPietro’s confidence by leaving him in for seven goals in his debut, but he’s not a guy willing to give up that easily – and it will be up to him to bounce back when his career does start for good at the NHL level.
DiPietro Was Out to Dry
“So DiPietro was thrown literally to the Sharks,” wrote Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre. And he was right. Thrown to the sharks. Hung out to dry. You can use any cliché you’d like and it would likely fit the situation. Any way you put it, DiPietro was put into a winless situation.
He had given up a goal within the first 64 seconds and three on his first five shots. Certainly, it wasn’t all on DiPietro’s shoulders.
“We definitely weren’t good enough in front of him,” said Canucks’ forward Bo Horvat in MacIntyre’s piece. “We had to be better defensively for him, especially early. When you’ve got a young goalie like that, his first NHL game, you can’t go 8-0 shots (against) in the first five or 10 minutes. That never going to end well.”
While other players echoed Horvat’s feelings regarding DiPietro’s debut, the young goalie shouldered a lot of the blame as well.
“It’s not them,” DiPietro said via MacIntyre. “It falls on me, too. I’ve got to be better. The guys have been great with me and made me feel welcome. These guys, you want to play for them. I appreciate all the did.”
Beneficial or not, the early introduction to the NHL certainly wasn’t a good one for DiPietro. While it was an almost necessary choice for the Canucks to call upon the 19-year-old, the premature appearance is straight out of the book on how not to develop young goaltenders. That being said, DiPietro looks at the chance with more of a positive approach – a silver lining of sorts.
DiPietro and the Nothingness of Adversity
“Some adversity has been thrown, but it’s OK. It’s something I can definitely learn from and work towards bettering my game and bettering myself,” said the 67’s goaltender to Sportsnet following his NHL debut.
And it’s not the first time that DiPietro has faced adversity in his young hockey career.
Having lost a parent at a young age, DiPietro has already learned to adapt to tough situations around him. Things changed and still he faced them head on.
To add to that, it was December 2017 when he was cut from the Canadian World Junior squad. Devastated and heartbroken, DiPietro didn’t let that shake his confidence. In fact, he came back to Windsor and put up an incredible season for the Spitfires – finishing 29-21-3-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average while locking up seven shutouts.
He grew from the experience and became a better goalie for it.
One year later, he donned the red and white for Team Canada at the World Juniors and finished with a 3-0-1 record to go along with a .951 save percentage and 1.23 goals against average.
While it will be argued by many – including former goaltenders – that his NHL debut will certainly shake his confidence and maybe even poke a hole in it, the fact is that every player takes adversity and handles it differently.
From my experience in talking to DiPietro, he’s a confident kid. While his debut didn’t go the way he would’ve liked it, time will tell if he can use that experience to come back to the NHL down the road stronger and more prepared for the fast-paced environment that awaits him as a possible full-time Canucks’ goaltender.
Have thoughts about the column? Let me know on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or @Tape2TapeTHW.
Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on delivering some opinion to hockey’s biggest fans. Whether you agree or disagree, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.