VOORHEES, N.J. -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender prospect Thatcher Demko is aiming to spend more than three days in the NHL this season.
"There's been some movement with the goalies in Vancouver this summer," Demko said at the Checking For Charity Tournament last month at Flyers Skate Zone. "I just want to go in [to training camp] and put my best foot forward. I'm still young but I still have the mindset of going in and cracking the lineup and showing the coaching staff and everyone else what I can do. Hopefully I'll be able to do that."
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Demko, 21, a second-round pick (No. 36) in the 2014 NHL Draft, signed with the Canucks on April 20, 2016, after his third season at Boston College. He had a rough start with Utica of the American Hockey League, going 0-3-1 and allowing 15 goals in his first four games. But he righted things quickly, allowing 19 goals in his next 10 games, and on Dec. 9 was 7-5-1 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 14 games.
The next day, Demko was called up by the Canucks after Ryan Miller sustained a lower-body injury. He spent three games as the backup to Jacob Markstrom and was sent back to Utica on Dec. 13. Though he did not make his NHL debut, he said it was a great experience.
"The lifestyle between the AHL and the NHL is vastly different," he said. "It was really cool to be around the pros. You're around guys that have been in the League a long time, the Sedins [forwards Daniel and Henrik], [defenseman Alexander] Edler, Miller. Really good experience. Guys were all really welcoming, which was nice for me. Hopefully I'll be up there a lot more this year."
Demko said being around Miller, who signed with the Anaheim Ducks on July 1, made a big impression on him.
"I was paired up with Ryan Miller for last year's training camp so we had a little bit of a background there," Demko said. "When I was up he was the guy who had tweaked something and wasn't able to play. I definitely talked to him quite a bit. He talked to me about how things were going in Utica. He's just a great guy. There's a reason he's been in the League for so long and why everyone says great things about him. … Just being around him for those few days was a great experience."
Demko returned to Utica and finished the season with 22 wins, third among rookie AHL goalies, a 2.68 GAA and a .907 save percentage in 45 games.
After Miller's departure, the Canucks signed Anders Nilsson to a two-year contract July 1. He had a .923 save percentage in 26 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season but has played 76 games in four NHL seasons with four teams. Markstrom had a .910 save percentage in 26 games last season but has played 109 NHL games in seven seasons, with a .906 career save percentage.
Demko sees an opportunity to extend his NHL stay beyond three games this season, and one way for him to do that is a focus on an economy of movement in net, and allowing his 6-foot-4, 192-pound frame to do a lot of the work for him. It's something he learned from watching Miller, who at 6-2, 168 also is a bigger goaltender.
"On the ice, just trying to be a lot more efficient, use my size a lot more," Demko said. "All the best goalies in the League tend to not move too much. That was another thing Miller talked to me about. I watched a lot of his film and he's really efficient with his movement. Pucks really just hit him. That's something I'm working on this summer, and hopefully continue to work on."