(Originally published Nov. 23, 2018)
The Vancouver Canucks picked up a gem in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft with the third round selection of Michael DiPietro. The 20-year-old is largely regarded as one of, if not the, best goalies in the OHL. In fact, he was last season.
DiPietro has started the 2018-19 season very strongly with the Windsor Spitfires and is coming off an impressive outing in the 2018 CIBC Canada/Russia Series.
DiPietro on the Rise
“Standing just six-feet tall will put him in an uphill position to become a workhorse starting netminder at the NHL level, but DiPietro has top-notch skills and a clear desire to work for his success.” – Cam Robinson, DobberProspects.com
DiPietro is immensely skilled, but his work-ethic overshadows all of his other tremendous qualities and small stature. He’s currently the backbone of the rebuilding Spitfires and, although they’re just 8-6, DiPietro’s statistics almost make you do a double-take with that record.
So far this season, the Amherstburg, Ontario product is hanging onto a 2.23 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .924. Both stats are good enough for second in the OHL, behind a guy who has played in six fewer games, faced 185 fewer shots and plays for the Midwest Division-leading London Knights.
It’s not exactly surprising, though. DiPietro led his gutted Spitfires team to the playoffs last season, and, along the way, he led the league in shutouts (seven) and finished top-10 in wins (29), saves (1544), GAA (2.70) and SV% (.910).
With the World Junior Championships just around the corner, one has to expect that DiPietro will be holding down the number-one or number-two spot. After being snubbed of a spot last season, and with the tournament being placed in Vancouver and Victoria, it makes for a storybook ending to DiPietro’s hunt for team Canada’s elusive roster at the WJC.
“This is something I really want. I want to be the starter. I want to win gold here in Vancouver, that’s my goal come Christmas time, and I’m not going to let anyone get in the way of that.” – Michael DiPietro, Windsor Spitfires
By the Summer, DiPietro will have finished his fourth season with the Spitfires, likely have WJC-experience under his belt, and you might just start hearing his name in the Canucks’ conversations a little bit more.
DiPietro and the Canucks
“I truly believe that five years from now the starting goalie for the Canucks will be Michael DiPietro. Nothing against Demko, but DiPietro is a better athlete than Demko.” – John Shannon, Sportsnet
This is a narrative that I’ve heard thrown around a few times and I think it has some teeth. With that being said, the two goalies have bonded on and off of the ice, so, the Canucks might want to keep that around.
“It’s a process here, especially for goaltending. I want to make sure that I’m 100 percent ready for the next level in all aspects – mentally, physically, and emotionally – before I make the jump. You see a lot of goalies that kind of get burned out really fast. I think where my game is headed and the recourses here in Vancouver, it’s awesome. Especially with Thatch and I being close. I’m really excited about what the future has.” – Michael DiPietro, Windsor Spitfires
Demko is currently 22 years old and has an NHL victory to his name from last season. He has spent the majority of his time in the AHL with the Utica Comets and just bounced back from a concussion this season, returning to practice and preparing for game-action.
Most people have Demko pegged as the next number-one in the Canucks’ crease but the John Shannon quote featured above definitely gets you thinking. Is there room for both of these potentially elite goalies in the system? And is DiPietro the one who should be seeing more of the spotlight?
It’s tough to ignore the trade-bait of these two young men, and with the opportunity to acquire Canucks prospect Quinn Hughes’, top-ranked, younger brother Jack at the draft, you definitely can’t turn a blind eye to the possibility of one of these young net-minders being used in a package deal.
On the other hand, the Canucks’ Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom have not displayed starting goalie qualities and with identical ages of 28, their window to prove themselves is slowly deteriorating. Nilsson’s contract is up after this season and Markstrom has one more year left on his deal. One of them is 100% gone by next season and the possibility of both being out the door is escalating.
One spot will be available for, most likely, Demko but DiPietro could also find his way onto the Canucks’ roster and split the crease with his buddy. We could see something similar to what we have seen with the Swedish twin towers – a healthy competition between the two, battling for the true starter position.
“Thatcher has a really big opportunity next year in camp. I won’t put myself behind the eight-ball either. I just got to try in come in and be prepared… he’s a really good goaltender, and a really good resource for myself. I know last year, rooming with him was awesome. Hopefully we can be goalie partners one day.” – Michael DiPietro, Windsor Spitfires
What are your thoughts on DiPietro? Who do you have between Demko and DiPietro? Let me know in the comments down below!