Canucks’ Thatcher Demko has faith team will do what’s best for him

The Canucks head coach says Thatcher Demko is on the right path but must make improvements while the rookie goalie is keen on continuing his development to earn a full-time spot.

VANCOUVER – Growing up in San Diego, Thatcher Demko alternated homes between his mom and dad, who had split up.

His mother, Danielle, worked for many years at San Diego’s Rock Church, whose founder and pastor, Miles McPherson, played in the National Football League before he found God and went to theology school. But Demko’s dad, Brenton, whose parents moved the family to Southern California from Ontario, was non-religious.

“So I got both sides,” Thatcher said Wednesday before making his first pre-season start for the Vancouver Canucks. “They were both really good at letting me figure things out on my own and not telling me what to believe.”

At age 22, Demko still hasn’t reached any conclusions. But the goaltender is fascinated by ideas about faith and two summers ago took a religious studies course at Boston College, part of a philosophy minor included in the degree in applied psychology that Demko hopes to finish by correspondence this fall.

“It was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken,” Demko explained during a quiet conversation at training camp last weekend. “One class, the professor would advocate Judaism and tell us why that was the best religion. The next class, he’d talk about Islam and why that was the best religion. Budhism. Christianity. I just want to try to understand as much as I can; I think that’s really important with what’s going on in the world right now.”

And what does this have to do with trying to play goal in the National Hockey League? Absolutely nothing. But it has a lot to do with Demko – about his outlook and studious patience, about his willingness to try to understand things by viewing them through more than one lens.

Central Scouting’s top-rated goalie when the Canucks nabbed him 36th-overall in the 2014 National Hockey League draft, Demko has excelled at every level.


He finished high school a year early to enroll at Boston College, where in his final season the six-foot-four goalie went 27-8-4 with 10 shutouts, a .935 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average. Last season in the American Hockey League, Demko’s second with the Canucks’ Utica Comets farm team, he was 25-13-4 with a 2.44 GAA and .922 save rate.

He was an AHL all-star and is widely considered one of the top goaltending prospects outside the NHL. In his only game for the Canucks, a March 31 NHL debut that Demko requested, he posted a 5-4 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, stopping 25 of the first 26 shots he faced before allowing three straight goals at the end of regulation time.

Demko is desperate to play in the NHL this season, and most Canucks fans are desperate to see him.

But general manager Jim Benning’s organization has long considered the ideal development scenario for Demko to be three full seasons in the AHL, which would allow him to evolve as much as possible before reaching the NHL. Part of this thinking is that Demko, when he arrives, could soon be a starter and not simply a backup to be groomed for another two or three seasons.

Both Benning and coach Travis Green, however, have also said that Canucks goaltending is open to competition. The team, after all, went 31-40-3 last season and backup goalie Anders Nilsson won only one of his final 16 starts while finishing with a ghastly .901 save percentage and 3.44 goals-against average.

Nilsson looked shaky again in the Canucks’ 4-2 pre-season loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Demko was scheduled to play only two periods Wednesday against the Calgary Flames’ split-squad. With just six more pre-season games for Vancouver – and starter Jacob Markstrom yet to make an appearance – can Demko really get enough audition time to win an NHL job?

And do the Canucks, who are stuck with Nilsson’s $2.5-million salary, really want Demko to win a job when he can be returned without waivers to Utica for another 50 AHL games this season?

“We’re very high on him,” Green said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “We want to make sure we do right by him and make sure that he’s ready. I think he’s on the right path so far.

“I think there’s a step to everything and the first step is to see where he’s at. You’ve got to worry about how many games he plays and where he’s at. These young guys still have to improve and get better. Demmer knows that. He wants to be a starting goalie in the NHL and there’s a process to that.”

Demko, who turns 23 in December, said: “I think the coach is still trying to figure out what the team’s going to look like. As the season develops, we’ll have a better picture, a better idea, about what my development might look like this season.

“I know that wherever I am, I’m going to develop. Obviously, I want to be up here. But I know they have a plan in place and wherever I am, I’m going to be working hard and making sure I’m improving and taking the right steps.

“(Canucks management and coaches) have been doing this a long time. I know they’re going to do whatever they think is best for me.”

See, his faith is strong.

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