Thatcher Demko said he’s excited about the chance to be the No. 1 goalie for the Vancouver Canucks this season and beyond.
Demko, who backed up Jacob Markstrom last season, will compete for playing time with Braden Holtby, who signed a two-year contract with Vancouver on Oct. 9. Markstrom signed a six-year contract with the Calgary Flames the same day.
“I think there’s a lot on the table and I’m just really excited to get the opportunity to take that next step,” Demko told Sportsnet on Sunday. “I want to be in Vancouver as long as I can. I want to be the guy. This is the next step in that direction.”
A second-round pick (No. 36) by the Canucks at the 2014 NHL Draft, Demko has been training in Vancouver most of the fall, rather than his native San Diego, because he wanted to complete any quarantine he had to serve crossing into Canada well ahead of training camp. The NHL is targeting the start of the season for Jan. 1, 2021.
Demko said he’s hoping to build on his play during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he replaced an injured Markstrom for the final three games of the Western Conference Second Round against the Vegas Golden Knights with the Canucks down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. Demko had a 48-save shutout in Game 6, the most ever in a postseason game by a rookie, but the Canucks lost 3-0 in Game 7. He allowed two goals on 125 shots (.984 save percentage) in the three games.
“I think it showed not only me, but it showed his teammates and coaches, our fans and the media, that he is the guy we thought he could turn out to be,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “We believed that’s what he was capable of, but to actually see it for three games and for everybody else to see it, I think it was fantastic.”
It also should give Demko, who turns 25 on Dec. 8, a confidence boost for this season.
“I’ve been able to reflect a ton on it,” he said. “You can look back and watch the film, which I was able to do. But I think the biggest thing I take away from that was just the mental step that I took. That’s the thing that’s probably the biggest adjustment going through your career, having that mentality, creating that confidence and sustaining that confidence. For me, it was kind of like the stars aligned.
“I’d had some opportunities that maybe didn’t go great, and I was able to learn from those. … Obviously I wanted to win Game 7. But now that some time has passed, I’m able to look back and really enjoy how fun that was for me. Just having that confidence and kind of proving to myself that I can do it, three games in four nights, yeah, it was definitely a big step.”