Richardson GMP

by Mack Irwin

For the third straight season, the Canucks will ice a new goaltending duo in September when the season starts.

They recently traded Eddie Lack, their popular and effective backup goalie, to the Carolina Hurricanes. In doing so, the Canucks sent two clear messages: one, that the club believes in Ryan Miller as their top net minder; and two, that they see Jacob Markstrom as being ready for full-time NHL duty.

Originally acquired from the Panthers as part of the Roberto Luongo trade, Markstrom has an unusual pro track record. He has been one of the best goalies outside of the NHL since he was drafted in 2008. That includes stopping more than 92% of the shots he’s faced in a lengthy AHL career — he’s been really, really good.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t found that groove at the NHL level. Stopping only 89.6% of his shots, as he has in his 50 NHL games, has earned him swift demotions back to the American league. For whatever reason, Markstrom’s play has dropped off a cliff every time he’s gotten a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

It isn’t as if Markstrom has a track record of falling apart under pressure. His ability to succeed in the clutch was on full display this year, when he took the Utica Comets — the Canucks’ AHL affiliate — to the Calder Cup finals.

Goalies with Markstrom’s track record often make very good NHL goalies - and they rarely struggle as backups. It’s hard to say what has held him back so far: it could be nerves, injuries, or even just plain old bad luck. But the Canucks are making a bet on Jacob Markstrom next season.

They’re betting that the goalie who carried his team to within three wins of the Calder Cup this spring is going to turn up in Vancouver this season — not that other guy.

Mack is a fourth year student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, working on his Masters (Honours) in International Relations. He is also a hockey statistician of note, contributing to the Washington Post as an NHL analytics writer. You can check his hockey writing at




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