After the Vancouver Canucks used a second-round draft pick on Thatcher Demko in 2014, following a breakout freshman campaign at Boston College, and he proceeded to improve over his next two seasons with the Eagles, many expected that it wouldn’t take long for him to take over as the starter for Vancouver. Now in his third pro season, Demko has suited up for only one game with the Canucks and continues to sit behind the likes of Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson, who have been far from spectacular in that time. With the Vancouver duo currently combining for a save percentage below .900 and a goals against average over 3.00, this season would seem to be a prime opportunity for Demko to finally break through as an option at the NHL level. However, a concussion in training camp derailed the beginning of the season for the young keeper and he has only recently returned to the net for the AHL’s Utica Comets. The Athletic’s Jason Brough recently caught up with Demko to get an update on how his return from the “scary” injury has gone so far. Demko stated that he really wanted to take his time and ensure he was 100% before returning from the concussion, but feels good now. Demko continued that he has been working closely with the Canucks’ new goalie coach, Ian Clark, and is anxious to get his chance in Vancouver this season. Six games into his season in the AHL, Demko’s numbers aren’t as stellar as they were last season, but as he grows healthier and more comfortable in net, he’s likely to return to that high-level performance. Assuming he does, Demko should have far more than one NHL start on his resume by the end of this season.
- Colorado Avalanche top prospect and college hockey superstar Cale Makar was invited to play for Team Canada at the Olympics last year, but declined the opportunity. History has repeated itself this year, as The Athletic’s Julie Robenhymer reports that Makar was offered a spot on Canada’s entry into the Spengler Cup tournament in Switzerland later this month, but has again passed up the international experience. Robenhymer writes that Makar has opted to work on getting back to full health before the second half of the NCAA season begins in January. With UMass ranked as the top team in the country, they need their top defenseman ready to go as they chase a national championship this season. While the Avs may have liked to have seen Makar in a different context at the Spengler Cup, they won’t hesitate to sign him as soon as his college season is over regardless.
- One defenseman who may not be so eager to make the jump to the NHL is Buffalo Sabres prospect Oskari Laaksonen. Laaksonen, 19, was a third-round selection by the Sabres in 2017 and is a well-regarded young puck-mover. However, Laaksonen is comfortable staying in his native Finland for the time being, as Ilves has announced a two-year extension with their young stalwart. While the press release included a quote from Laaksonen that he is happy to stay with the team until something happens in the NHL, Buffalo certainly wouldn’t mind if he wanted to log some time in the AHL beforehand and it would help Laaksonen reach to top level much sooner. With Rasmus Dahlin, Lawrence Pilut, and Rasmus Ristolainen all relatively young and seemingly locked in to long-term starting roles, Laaksonen likely sees a lack of opportunity right now in Buffalo. However, he does seem willing to make the move once the blue line opens up somewhat with the Sabres.