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The 2023-24 season will rely on Thatcher Demko for the Vancouver Canucks

Photo by Chris Liverani from Unsplash

If the Canucks are going to make the playoffs this season, they are going to need a better season from goaltender Thatcher Demko. Demko has been with the Canucks for four seasons, and in 2021-22 he finished with a respectable 2.72 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. It was good enough for him to earn a Vezina Trophy vote, which saw him finish tied for seventh that year.

But Demko slipped last season and finished with a 3.16 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 32 games. Demko missed three months with a groin injury and did look better in his return, which should give fans hope that he will bounce back and have a strong season if he stays healthy.

Canucks fans better hope Demko can stay healthy this season if last season is any indication. Spencer Martin is the likely backup due to his one-way deal. He played 29 games last season, finishing with a 3.99 goals-against average and a .871 save percentage. 

Vancouver’s other options are largely untested. They include the newly signed Zach Sawchenko, who played seven games for the San Jose Sharks in the 2021-22 season, Nikita Tolopilo, who is making his North American debut after two seasons with Södertälje Sk in HockeyAllsvenskan (Sweden’s second-highest league), and Arturs Silovs, who played five games with the Canucks last season and finished with a 2.75 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. 

Three questions

Will we get another 100-point performance from Elias Pettersson?

Pettersson has been on an upward trend since being drafted fifth overall, and at 24 years old, he still has a ways to go before he hits his peak. The former Calder winner and three-time All-Star is coming off his best season yet, which saw him go 39-63-102, hitting the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. Petterson is in the final year of a three-year deal, seeing him average $7.35 million, and another 100-point season could see him get a nice raise.

Will the Canucks name a captain?

Vancouver hasn’t had a captain since the 2019-20 season when they traded Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders. Quinn Hughes has emerged as the likely candidate, with both Elliotte Friedman and Rick Dhaliwal naming him the frontrunner. Hughes has been with the Canucks organization since they drafted him seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and is entering the third year of a six-year, $47.1 million deal.

Does Conor Garland get traded? 

When the offseason started, it looked like the Canucks were ready to wash their hands of forward Conor Garland. Vancouver desperately needs cap relief, and Garland has three years left on a contract with a $4.95 million cap hit, a big hit for a player who had only 46 points in 81 games last season. But despite some aggressive shopping, Garland is still with the Canucks as the start of the season rapidly approaches. Garland did have his best season under Tocchet as a member of the Coyotes in 2019-20 when he tallied 22 goals and 17 assists in 68 games, so his former coach may help him regain his form enough to justify his contract or make him a more attractive trade target.