Getting To Know Thatcher Demko

Matt Dewkett

Thatcher Demko was the youngest player in all of college hockey last season, but showed possibly the most promise.

Ed Note: Big big thanks to Evan for helping give us a better look at Thatcher Demko. Be nice and give him a follow.

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BOSTON -- Thatcher Demko had to wait-and-watch plenty during his freshman season at Chestnut Hill. It began when Demko, as 17-year-old, showed up to Boston College the youngest player in college hockey, but a spectator to junior Brian Billett.

Then, as Demko began to settle into a more prominent role, he traveled to Malamo, Sweden for the World Junior Championships to represent Team USA, only to watch Hockey East rival and Providence goalie Jon Gillies do all the heavy lifting at the tournament.

So as Demko listened to 30 names get called Friday night during Round 1 of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, despite being projected by some be taken in that range, it really wasn't anything new for the California native.

What Demko did prove when Jerry York finally anointed him the Eagles starter was that he was well worth the wait, as after he celebrated his 18 birthday in early December, he was lights out through the Eagles' run to the Frozen Four.

Now the Canucks are hoping this latest waiting game pays off in the future for Vancouver.

"It's really nerve racking, and you're just hoping someone calls you, and you don't know what to expect," said Demko after being selected No. 36 overall. "You can't get upset about it or anything like that."

At 6'3, Demko uses his bigger frame to really make shooting angles and attempts much more difficult for his opponents. He reads the game incredibly well, and his positioning is ahead of most other goalies his age. Combine his height, instinct, and steady lateral movement, and you get a rare blend of skills that keep Demko from flopping around in the crease. He rarely makes the dramatic save because he's always square to the shooter, and in position to make a play on the puck.

"My size is a tool, but I don't like to rely on it. I can use it, but I can still react to pucks and play athletic," said Demko. "It's something I'm still working on, but is probably one of the biggest pieces to my game."

Had he played a fuller schedule, and Demko likely would have been in the conversation for many more awards come the end of his rookie season. In 24 appearances, he posted a 16-5-3 record for Boston College, with a 2.24 GAA and a .919 sv%. More impressive, Demko's numbers when playing against league opponents were even higher, as he sported a 9-1-1 record with a 1.35 GAA and a .948 sv%. Both of his shutouts also came against Hockey East foes.

Simply put, when the stakes were raised, it did nothing to deter the green Demko.

"It's just part of the goaltending position," said Demko. "You have to play in pressure, and that's kind of just the nature of it."

There was the 2014 Beanpot, a tournament that brings together four local rivals—Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, and Harvard—to play in the Bruins TD Garden every year. In two victories over Boston University and Northeastern en route to the championship, Demko stopped 56 of 58 shots, including a masterful 29 save performance in the championship game against the Huskies.

Demko flew a bit under the radar through it all, as Boston College was buoyed by its offense, and 2014 Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau. But quietly, Demko became a stalwart for York's Eagles, including running off a 19 game unbeaten streak during which Demko won 17 games, and tied two.

A product of the United States National Development Team, Demko spent the year prior to his freshman campaign in Ann Arbor, playing with the nation's other top players. Competing against some college and other programs, Demko went 15-3 with a 2.21 GAA.

The Canucks are no strangers to goalies who have played at Kelley Rink, as Vancouver selected Cory Schneider out of Boston College back in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft with the 26th overall pick.

"It's a great hockey environment, a little bit different than California," said Demko, who added he can thrive in the pressure that Vancouver creates. "Hopefully I can appeal to the fans up there and make them love me instead of hate me."

Demko will return to another talented Boston College team that features two incoming freshmen (Sonny Milano and Alex Tuch) who were taken in that first round on Friday. BC returns seven other players who are property of NHL teams. And with that environment saturated with talent, and Demko not turning 19 until a few months into his sophomore season, he'll continue to develop with another year under York.

Evan Sporer writes about the NHL and college hockey for SB Nation.

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