If everything follows to plan, Abbotsford hockey fans can expect to see a lot of Michael DiPietro in between the pipes for the new American Hockey League franchise.
Speaking to the Sekeres and Price podcast (with Jeff Paterson), Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson stated he forecasts a healthy amount of playing time for the 2017 third-round pick.
“This is going to be a huge year for him,” he said. “At worst case I would expect him to play 50-plus games in Abbotsford.”
Johnson said fans in Abbotsford will enjoy watching him in goal.
“He’s one of the best young goaltenders in the game period,” he said. “It’ll be exciting for our fans there to see him on a more consistent basis.”
— Sekeres and Price (@sekeresandprice) July 6, 2021
There is also the possibility that DiPietro cracks the Canucks roster, especially if Canucks goalie Braden Holtby is selected by the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft.
Like so many people, DiPietro’s time during the pandemic was unique. He was one of five players on the Vancouver Canucks taxi squad, which was a special NHL creation for this season to allow teams to keep a handful of players close at hand for recall in case of an injury to someone on the roster.
As a result, he only played four games last season for the AHL’s Utica Comets, the Canucks former affiliate. He posted a record of 3-1, had a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .916.
His last full season (2019-20) in the AHL saw him go 21-11-2 in 36 games, collect a GAA of 2.70 and a .908 save percentage. He’s also appeared in two games for the Canucks, allowing eight goals in 68 minutes of action. His first game, which occurred on Feb. 11, 2019, was an emergency call-up after Canucks starter Thatcher Demko was hurt. Vancouver lost 7-2 to the San Jose Sharks on that day, and DiPietro became the second-youngest goalie in franchise history.
Following that loss, DiPietro returned to his junior team in Ottawa.
The Windsor, Ont. native played for his hometown Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League for four years, earning a first all-rookie team honours and helping the Spitfires to a Memorial Cup win in 2017. He has also represented Canada on the international stage both as a junior and senior, most recently winning gold at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Latvia.
The Canucks plan to officially announce the team name for its Abbotsford affiliate on Friday.