It’s the latest edition of the weekly tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

Article content

Mike DiPietro

If a prospect doesn’t get any game time, does their game still develop?

That’s the conundrum the Canucks face with Mike DiPietro, the promising young goaltender who’s been stuck in transit on the team’s taxi squad all season.

The 21-year-old hasn’t seen any game action since he last suited up with the Utica Comets as an AHL rookie over a year ago. It was a season of maturation for DiPietro, who at 6-foot and 201 pounds is slightly smaller than the average starter, but whose heart and battle level are qualities that can’t be measured.

The 2017 third rounder guided the underdog Windsor Spitfires to a surprise Memorial Cup title in 2017 and had a standout — albeit shortened — season with the Comets last year.

“Last season was a season of great growth for me, from a hockey perspective and from a personal perspective,” DiPietro told Comets broadcaster Jason Shayna in an interview last week, looking back on a campaign in which he posted a 21-11-2 record, a tidy 2.79 goals-against-average and .908 save percentage.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

To put it in perspective, Canucks starter Thatcher Demko posted a 2.68 GAA and .907 save percentage as a 20-year-old with the Comets in 2017.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“As the season progressed, I just felt more comfortable in the net. Your confidence grows. It’s something you build game after game,” DiPietro said.

And that’s the rub. Having not played since a 3-1 loss in Utica on March 11, 2020, where DiPietro’s crease confidence is at these days is anyone’s guess.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

What is known is that the Windsor native had been hard at work with Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark, who is seen by many as the best in the business. Clark was key in turning Sergei Bobrovsky into a two-time Vezina Trophy winner with the Columbus Blue Jackets and has worked wonders with Jacob Markstrom and Demko during his time in Vancouver.

And by all accounts, DiPietro is the most prudent of students, soaking up directions like pucks to the crest and sticking around long after practice to work on his fundamentals.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

But there’s no action like game action. Even Canucks GM Jim Benning said so before the season began.

“In a perfect world, we’d want Mike playing every night (in the AHL),” Benning said in December.

Now that neither team is playing — not in Vancouver and not in Utica — DiPietro may have to wait until next season to face an opposing shooter again, a far from perfect scenario for the promising prospect.


Arvid Costmar of Sweden battles against Filip Koffer of the Czech Republic during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2020 in Edmonton.
Arvid Costmar of Sweden battles against Filip Koffer of the Czech Republic during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2020 in Edmonton. Photo by Codie McLachlan /Getty Images

Arvid Costmar

He wants to be the kind of player you don’t want to play against.

He was well on his way, before a shoulder injury in January sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Costmar, 19, picked all the way back in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL draft, nudged himself up the Canucks prospects’ pecking order this past season, with the two-way, agitating centre performing admirably at the world junior tournament (5 GP, 2G, 0A) while skating in his second Swedish Hockey League season with Linkoping (22 GP, 1G, 0A).

It was at the world juniors that Costmar made a name for himself, getting under the opposition’s skin and getting to the dirty areas of the ice. He was named one of Sweden’s top three players in the tournament.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The reviews were positive, and when the 5-foot-11, 179-pound right-shot forward returned to Sweden, he worked his way up to a third-line centre role and the team’s first power play unit.

Then his shoulder popped out of place.

Costmar, now on the road to rehabilitation after successful surgery, caught up with Ryan Haze and Mike Patron of the ‘I Only Touch Greatness’ podcast on Friday to talk about how his season went and what it’s been like to sit on the sidelines in what was supposed to be a prime developmental year.

“As a young player, when you get an injury, when you feel like you have to develop and you’re in a good mood after the world juniors … it’s tough,” Costmar said. “It’s been the seventh … sixth week since (surgery) and everything is going according to plan.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Costmar, who styles his game after Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, was disappointed with Sweden’s quarterfinal exit from the world juniors, but was pleased with how he performed his role.

“We needed some grit the team and I took it on,” he said. “I want to be a player you don’t want to play against and play with grit, grind and take the puck to the net.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Yet for all the talk about his pestilent play, Costmar has some bite to his offensive game. He tallied 26 goals, 24 assists and a plus-21 rating in 29 games playing for the Linkoping U20’s in the year he was drafted.

“I have some offensive upside with a good shot, good passing ability,” he said.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

And about those run-ins he had with fellow Canucks prospect Vasili Podkolzin at the world juniors: “He’s a terrific player. Just a powerhouse. You have to play him in a certain way.”

When he’s all healed up and back on the ice, the thoughtful, determined teenager said he’ll keep doing what he’s doing to get ahead.

“I try to train hard and practice hard everyday. I don’t think about challenges. I just see opportunities with being a hockey player and doing what I love.”


Vasili Podkolzin celebrates after scoring the opening goal in a 3-2 overtime win for SKA St. Petersburg over Dynamo Moscow in the KHL playoffs in late March.
Vasili Podkolzin celebrates after scoring the opening goal in a 3-2 overtime win for SKA St. Petersburg over Dynamo Moscow in the KHL playoffs in late March. Photo by @khl_eng /twitter

Vasili Podkolzin

It’s hard to make a difference when your team can’t score.

The Canucks’ top prospect and his SKA St. Petersburg teammates are looking for answers after being shut out in the first two games of their KHL conference final series against archrival CSKA Moscow this past week.

Podkolzin, a 2019 first-rounder, had one shot on goal and an even rating in 12:12 of ice time in Friday’s 3-0 loss in Moscow. He’s been playing on SKA’s third line, alongside fellow youngsters Kirill Marchenko and Ivan Morozov. The line created a few chances, but couldn’t convert.

One chance came in the third period, with Podkolzin receiving a pass at the opposition’s blue line, making a move past a CSKA player before firing a hot shot just wide past a screened goaltender.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Sunday’s game wasn’t much better for SKA, who were blanked 2-0. Podkolzin was on the ice for a goal against, but the SKA coaching staff liked what they saw from the 19-year-old, who finished the game with the second-most minutes of any forward on the team with 17:38 of ice time.

Down 1-0 with a couple minutes left in the game, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-shot winger tried to do it himself, going on an end-to-end rush only to have his shot tipped wide by a defender.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Podkolzin has six points (3G, 3A) in 12 playoff games, good for third best on his team, despite the bottom six assignments he’s been given.

SKA next face CSKA in St. Petersburg for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday.

Elsewhere: Dmitri Zlodeyev (2020, Rd. 6) had a secondary assist for Dynamo Moscow in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Tolpar in the second round of the junior-level MHL playoffs. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound centre has three assists in five playoff games so far.

Meanwhile, Utica Comets forward Kole Lind (2017, Rd. 2) was officially called up to the Canucks’ taxi squad on Friday. The 22-year-old started the season strong with the Comets, scoring five goals and assisting on three others in eight games. Lind had already travelled to Vancouver a couple weeks ago as he recovered from a facial injury.

mraptis@postmedia.com

twitter.com/mike_raptis

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here