Canucks ‘X’ Factors: Jacob Markstrom

This is the third and final installment of my three-part series on Vancouver Canucks ‘X’ factors and this article will be focused on Jacob Markstrom, the young man pegged to be the Canucks’ starting net-minder for the coming 2017-18 season.

Markstrom, the 27-year-old Swede is heading into his fifth season with the Canucks organization and is poised for a breakout season that fans and Canucks management have been waiting for.

He has proven himself in Sweden, on the international stage and in the AHL, and it is now time for him to shine on the biggest hockey stage. A big season for Markstrom between the pipes could be an ‘X’ factor the Canucks need to find success this season.

What We Know About Jacob Markstrom

Markstrom is a behemoth, standing at six-foot-six and around 195 pounds — a scouts dream in terms of goaltending potential. Selected 31st overall by the Florida Panthers back in 2008, he was projected to one day become an elite goalie in the NHL.

A year after his draft, Markstrom helped lead Sweden to a silver medal in the 2009 World Junior Championship. Then, the following year, the young goalie led the entire Swedish Hockey League with a goals-against average of 2.01 and a save-percentage of .927.

Jacob Markstrom (Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

Shortly after his dominating season in the SHL, the Panthers signed Markstrom and over the next four seasons played him in 43 games, starting him for 38. He spent a lot of time in the AHL developing his game and found himself traded to the Canucks during the 2013-14 season for Canucks, then Panthers starter, Roberto Luongo.

Once in Vancouver, Markstrom’s story didn’t change much and he saw a lot of development time with the Utica Comets in the AHL. Now, with the previous number two Eddie Lack being traded and the starter Ryan Miller also being shipped off, Markstrom’s time to hold the torch has finally arrived.

Competition in the Crease

As previously mentioned, the Canucks top two goaltending positions have been vacated need to be filled. Markstrom will undoubtedly be in the top two, but holding down the number-one position won’t come without a little competition. On July 1, 2016, the Canucks signed Anders Nilsson to a two-year contract. Six days later, they extended Markstroms’ contract for another three years.

Nilsson and Markstrom are remarkably comparable, from their identical height, identical age, similar experience levels and even their shared country of origin. Nilsson also has very credible experience overseas as he played for the Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL and helped lead them all the way to the Gagarin Cup Final in 2014 — he carried a goals against average of 1.71 and a save perecentage of .936.

Based on NHL experience, Markstrom has the edge with 109 games while Nilsson has only 78, a very comparible statistic as Markstrom’s total has been accumulated over seven seasons while Nilsson’s have only been tallied over four.

While the two Swedes battle it out for the torch, they will also have to be wary of the young American, Thatcher Demko, nipping at their heels and hoping to take over at the number-two spot. Demko is a 21-year-old that is one-day projected to be the Canucks starter.

What to Expect This Season

I expect Markstrom to get the additional nod for the starting position as he has been with the organization since 2014 and was recently signed to that aforementioned contract extension. His time has finally come and he will not take the opportunity lightly.

If he can rise to the level of play that we’ve seen on the other stages of hockey, I have no doubt that he can blossom into the elite goalie he was projected to be back in 2008.

Goaltending has always been a major fixture of the Canuck’s organization and I believe Markstrom will cement himself as the new face in the crease in this 2017-18 season.