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World Juniors

DiPietro driven to start for Canada in World Junior Championship

Canucks goalie prospect motivated by getting cut in 2018

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia -- The two words have popped up on Michael DiPietro's phone a few times each month since December.

The words serve as a reminder and a motivator for the Vancouver Canucks goaltending prospect. A reminder of a feeling he wants to avoid, and a motivator to never have to see them again.

Got cut.

DiPietro, selected by the Canucks in the third round (No. 64) of the 2017 NHL Draft, was one of the final players released from Canada's selection camp for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship team that won the gold medal.

 

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Getting cut was something that never had happened to him, but he understood it was a feeling he needed to embrace if he wanted a chance to be the starting goalie for the 2019 WJC.

"After the day I got cut I put reminders on my phone for every day that I got cut to keep me going," DiPietro said. "It was something that you never want to feel that feeling ever again. It's up to me to make sure I don't.

"It would pop up on my phone in the morning when I'd get up to go to the rink during the season or in the summer. That's something that fuels me and drives me, something that's a constant reminder that each day you've got to get better because there's guys that want to come here and prove themselves too. I've got to do what I've got to do to maintain my game at a high level and give myself the best chance to play."

DiPietro used the sour feelings of being cut to push him through the second half of last season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League, and he won the OHL Goaltender of the Year Award after finishing fifth in the league with a 2.79 goals-against average and sixth with a .910 save percentage. It carried through his offseason training and how he's handling things during the World Junior Summer Showcase this week.

"I have a different approach coming into this year, definitely a more serious one," he said. "I want to make the (WJC) team. Not only do I want to make the team, I want to win gold. That's my focus coming into camp, set the foundation to do that come January."

That more serious approach has been noticeable to Canada's staff, including coach Tim Hunter.

"You can see him in the net, he competes, he's ready, he's prepared before practice, he's got himself ready to go," Hunter said. "Through the drills, playing the puck out, competing right to the end. That's the sign of a good goalie."

Among the things DiPietro (6-foot, 200 pounds) said he's worked on is better puck tracking, which he believes will improve his positioning.

"I was working with (goaltending coach) Lyle Mast and reading releases better and being more patient," DiPietro said. "You're on your game when you see the puck. As simple as that sounds it can be complex at times. When you see the puck more the game slows down. For me, being able to see the puck and slow the game down a bit more will help me become more calm in the net and more composed and not have to always rely on my athleticism."

Supplying further motivation to be Canada's goalie at the WJC is the tournament being played in Vancouver.

"It's an honor to represent your country no matter what, but especially in the city that drafted you would be really cool," he said. "I think winning in Vancouver would be even better. That's my focus."

Hunter said before camp started that DiPietro's experience gave him an advantage toward being the starting goalie for the 2019 WJC. DiPietro, though, knows he has to earn the job.

"It's great to hear him say that, but at the end of the day it's just words and I have to go prove those words to be true," he said. "Now it's up to me. It's not up to anyone else. Words are words and actions speak louder than words."

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