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2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #9 Michael DiPietro

A standout rookie campaign earns DiPietro a spot in our Top 10.

AHL: FEB 05 Utica Comets at Laval Rocket
Utica Comets goalie Michael DiPietro (64) waits for a faceoff during the Utica Comets versus the Laval Rocket game on February 05, 2020, at Place Bell in Laval, QC
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.

Size doesn’t always matter.

Whether you believe that or not (for whatever reason...), that wide-ranging motto is applicable to Michael DiPietro.

Hockey has progressed in a number of different ways over the last 10-20 years. While NHL players are increasingly smaller, slipperier and more skilled, goaltenders are trending as taller and lankier so that they can cover more net.

DiPietro’s ascension completely bucks that trend. He stands as one of the few goalies (slightly) under 6-0 feet and under with true NHL aspirations. However, his mechanics, coupled with the aggressive nature in which he challenges shooters, have allowed him to succeed at both the junior and professional ranks. It even had him drawing comparisons to Jonathan Quick at the draft in 2017.

The 2019-20 season was a big step for DiPietro. Not only did he make the jump from the OHL to the AHL with relative ease, but he stole away the starting role in Utica as the season progressed.

Comets head coach started Zane MacIntyre on the opening night of the 2019-20 season, but it was soon DiPietro who was playing the bulk of games. He ended up with 36 starts on the season, compared to MacIntyre’s 24.

It soon became clear that the Comets were a more successful team with DiPietro in net. When he started, the Comets were 21-11-2. When MacIntyre played, the Comets were 11-10-3.

DiPietro’s numbers in his rookie AHL campaign were very similar to what Thatcher Demko posted in his rookie season (22-17-5, 2.68 GAA, .907 SV%). Demko was able to take noticeable steps forward in his second AHL season (25-13-11, 2.44 GAA, .922 SV%), but it remains to be seen if DiPietro will even get the opportunity to do the same.

What’s Next for DiPietro?

There’s a cloud of mystery and intrigue surrounding a number of players that are supposed to play in Utica in 2021.

You could argue that none are in a more precarious situation than DiPietro.

On the one hand, what makes the most sense is for DiPietro to continue developing in the AHL, so that he’s prepared to join the Canucks and back-up Demko in a year or two down the road.

On the other hand, Jim Benning recently mentioned that the team doesn’t presently plan on bringing in another veteran goalie to sit on the taxi squad.

“In a perfect world, we’d want Mike playing every night (in the AHL),” Benning said. “But we have to travel with three goalies. We’re not going to go out right now and sign a veteran goalie because, under the circumstances, we don’t know yet when the AHL is going to play.”

Finding that balance between what’s best for DiPietro and the Canucks is a struggle. While DiPietro is best off playing consistently in the AHL, you could argue that the 21-year-old is a better option than another third-string back-up that the Canucks could bring in, if Demko or Holtby were to miss significant time with injury.

Personally, I think it’s best for the Canucks to claim another veteran goalie off of waivers, just to sit on the taxi-squad, if possible. However, that’s complicated by the fact that each team is required to carry three goalies on their roster this season. Also known as, the David Ayers rule.

One guy I outlined in our training camp preview as a veteran option on the waiver wire was Calvin Pickard of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s currently on a one-way contract and competing with another AHL veteran in Kevin Boyle for the third spot on the roster. However, it’s conceivable that no goalies get waived, since a lot of the third-stringers on one-way contracts might make their team’s 23-man rosters after all.

What this means for DiPietro waits to be seen. What’s known at the very least, is that the young netminder still enters the season on an upward trajectory after a fantastic rookie AHL campaign.