What to Expect if Michael DiPietro Gets NHL Action

By: Brayden Fengler / January 22, 2022  

Michael DiPietro has had an interesting tenure with the Canucks organization. He was drafted in 2017, which despite my internal clock telling me that 2017 was last year, it was actually 5 years ago. Yet DiPietro has only been trusted to play a total of 2 games for the franchise’s main club.

DiPietro has at least spent a total of 54 games backstopping the Canucks’ AHL affiliate team over the course of the last three seasons. Yet unfortunately, for most of the 2020-21 season, DiPietro sat unutilized on the taxi squad for the Vancouver Canucks during the year featuring the Canadian Division. 

It seems that because of the decision to halt DiPietro’s in-game development last season, the cobwebs that he gained while on the shelf are still attached to him at this stage in 2022. Despite a few notable saves, he hasn’t been able to prop up the underperforming Abby Canucks, in anything close to the same way that an early season Thatcher Demko was able to do on occasion with the then underperforming Vancouver Canucks.

Will his time spent more west on Highway 1 be a trial by fire that can re-spark his talents? or Have the Canucks left him out to dry for too long, only to throw him into the deep end?

How Has DiPietro Been with Abbotsford?

Well, that’s a loaded question. The Canucks prospect had a 415-day gap in between professional-level ice hockey games. This between when he played his last game before the pandemic, and when he briefly joined Utica again for four games at the end of their last season.

It seems as though the time he spent away from regularly scheduled play, may still be showing its effects, as his performance to this point in his 2021-22 season has left a lot to be desired. While on the taxi squad last year, DiPietro spent his days practicing with one of the best goaltending coaches in the business, Ian Clark.

Yet Michael never got the opportunity to utilize any of the skills in actual NHL or AHL games for a long stretch of time. From what’s been witnessed in his return to regular AHL play this season, it’s seeming as though even a season’s length of practice with a “Grade A” goalie coach, doesn’t beat the development a player can get from participating in real professional hockey games.

DiPietro has yet to pound or even vaguely claw, on the door to his NHL team. As the kids would say, he’s been “mid”. 

(I don’t know why I said that, I’m sorry. You’re either too old to even know that
I actually said something the kids would say, or you’re young enough to get what I said, but reading it has made you cringe right out of your skin. Cut me some slack, I’m a late 20’s millennial adrift in the cosmos, unable to come to terms with the speed life begins to travel at as you get older.) 

Anyways, existential crisis aside, the fact remains that DiPietro has been largely disappointing during his outings for the AHL Canucks this year, as he holds a large goals-against average of 3.19GA per game this season. His save percentage has also been less than impressive at .896% on the season so far. He simply has not been reliable for Abbotsford, in his 13 appearances for the club this season.

Michael’s current trajectory has brought up a lot of questions about the potential for ever actually seeing a Demko and Dipietro future. What a shame it would be if the “Double D’s” tandem never came to fruition. Yet sadly, just like how the nickname I used to refer to them is probably a bad idea, actually putting them together on the Canucks roster may turn out to be a bad idea as well.

What to Expect from DiPietro While He’s Here?

What exactly are the expectations Canucks fans should have for this former World Juniors goalie and Canucks prospect? Well if Spencer Martin’s performance against Florida is anything to go off of, then we should expect nothing less than a shutout in DiPietro’s first appearance, right? Well of course not, but that certainly would be a great story.

Martin’s performance though should be looked at as a special event, rather than a benchmark for the team’s younger goalies. Although It still opens the mental flood gates, and gets you wondering how DiPietro may have handled the same game last night.

The Canuck’s previous outing against the Panthers on January 11th ended in a 5-2 loss, the worst loss this team has seen since the hiring of new coach Bruce Boudreau. So needless to say the bar for DiPietro and Martin was set pretty low.

This is not too slight either of them, but if Thatcher Demko can get blown out by the Cats, then no Canuck’s goalie should be evaluated on performance against that team, not DiPietro, not Martin.

In anticipation of the games that may be ahead for DiPietro though, I spoke with 

Cody Severtson of THE AHL ‘Nucks Harvest, for his input on DiPietro’s play to this point in the AHL season. Cody watches the Abbotsford team closer than many in this market, so with that, he possesses a crystal ball for how the Canuck’s crease is going to look over the next few games.

In my brief chat with Cody ahead of Friday’s game his expectations for DiPietro were grim, citing the first 90% of DiPietro’s season in the AHL being anything but remarkable.

Cody also highlighted a fact that many who are not glued to the AHL calendar may not have considered. That fact being, that ahead of DiPietro’s call up, he hasn’t laced up for the AHL Canucks in over a week, with his last outing being on January 14th. Where he played an uncharacteristically good game to this point in his season, turning away 23 of a possible 24 shots that he faced on the night.

Is it possible that by the time DiPietro gets in net for Vancouver, he will be able to ride the wave of that one good AHL game, even after more than a week off from AHL Hockey, let alone NHL Hockey? I mean it’s definitely possible, but so is winning the lottery.

Cody did still have hope for DiPietro’s future to some degree however.: 

“I like him as a person, and I think he’s shown the potential of being a more-than-capable NHL backup just off his athleticism alone. But this season has been a serious step back. Nothing was going right.”

Cody Severtson

That sounds decent enough for the long term and doesn’t make him sound like a bust just yet. But in terms of the immediate future, the odds seem to be stacked against him, as they have been for Dipietro over the last few seasons.

The Road Ahead

Demko, along with teammate J.T. Miller only just entered COVID protocol on January 20th, and with the current protocols there are 5 days of mandatory isolation and then from there, players can test out with a negative PCR test. This means that Demko could potentially re-enter the equation as early as January 25th against the Edmonton Oilers.

This may be a bit too optimistic, but at least Thatcher Demko tested positive in Canada. The other Canucks’ goalie to test positive, Jaroslav Halak, tested positive in the United States, and that has seemed to delay any potential return a little while longer.

This is just another in a long line of unfortunate situations for a Canucks team that can’t appear to get a string of good luck even when they’re winning. It’s unfair, yes, but it’s also something that all teams are going through, or have gone through in one way or another at one point this season. 

DiPietro and Martin are welcome to surprise, but in reality Canucks fans shouldn’t put too much expectation on either of them throughout their stay in the big city.

Especially since key pieces like J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat are also missing upfront. The responsibility to keep this team afloat now lies with every member of the green and blue that didn’t play their last few games in the Abbotsford Centre.