Canucks: The Kalamazoo question

Written for thecanuckway.com

With the Vancouver Canucks goaltending situation heading into this season,  could the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings be an option for the organization?

To say the goaltending situation for the Vancouver Canucks has an interesting past would be a criminal understatement.

Since the turn of the decade especially, the Vancouver Canucks have had a whirlwind of goaltending controversies. It began with the Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo tandem, which headlined the glory days.  And since then, things have not gotten less confusing.

In 2018-19, the Canucks ran into a slew of problems between the pipes, none more so than the team encountered in January. After trading away Anders Nilsson, and having an injured Thatcher Demko and Richard Bachman, the Canucks were forced to send 19-year-old and Ottawa 67’s netminder Michael DiPietro between the pipes. The NHL debut was many years too early for DiPietro, who was expectedly lit up for seven goals against the San Jose Sharks.

Following the debacle of events, the Canucks have addressed their goaltending situation, and head into 2019-20 with an abundance of netminders. With that, not everyone will be able to have a spot in the NHL or AHL. That means that some of the goaltenders may have to suit up for the Kalamazoo Wings, the Canucks’ ECHL affiliate.

As it stands. the NHL goalies are Jacob Markstrom and Demko, the Comets’ are Richard Bachman and Zane McIntyre, leaving both the newly signed college free agent Jake Kielly and DiPietro without jobs in Vancouver or Utica.

If we look at who the Canucks have in their goaltending ranks, this likely leaves newly-turned pros, DiPietro and Kielly in the ECHL. Some may see this as a bad move for the DiPietro especially, but there should not be any panic. This is likely the best move for his development.

While skaters in the ECHL seldom make the NHL, goaltenders are in a different situation. The transition from junior or college ranks to the men’s pro game is a significant one, and being forced into AHL or NHL action is extremely difficult.

Now, many goalies do start in the AHL, and some move up the ranks extremely quickly to become NHL starters. The latest example would be Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, though his situation is a rare one.

DiPietro would develop very well in the ECHL. It would allow him to start nearly every night, get used to the pace of the men’s game, and get a ton of practice time. In the event of an injury anywhere on the Canucks’ goaltending ladder, he could be the first call-up — likely getting a few games in the AHL.

As a first-year pro, the ECHL is not a bad option whatsoever. Many quality NHL goalies have spent time in the third division of North American hockey, and many credit it to their success as goaltenders. For example, Jonathan Quick and Braden Holtby all spent time in the ECHL before becoming the NHL stars they are today. For goalies, development comes from experience. That is why the ECHL is a good option for young goalies, to get their first taste of the men’s game.

Many will be worried about the Canucks prospects, such as DiPietro if they are to start the season in Kalamazoo, but one has to remember the reasons why. Also, ask yourself this: Would you rather have a player sit on the bench but be in Utica, or play much more often but at a slightly lower level? I know my answer, and for the player, it is likely the same. Experience is key for goalies, and this is why both DiPietro and Kielly would benefit from spending a season in the ECHL.

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