Mike DiPietro’s bizarre 2020-21 hockey season is going to last a little longer.
The Canucks’ top goaltending prospect has been selected by Hockey Canada for the upcoming 2021 men’s world championship.
He’ll play at least one more game for the Utica Comets this week — they’re in action Wednesday, Friday and Sunday — before heading to Riga, Latvia, where Canada begins its campaign on May 21.
He’s expected to be Canada’s No. 3 goalie, behind a pair of Arizona netminders in Adin Hill and Darcy Kuemper. That means it’s unlikely he’ll play a game, but clearly this is an effort to get him some more ice time at the end of what’s been a nearly lost season.
According to InGoal magazine’s Kevin Woodley, the plan was for DiPietro to get as many as eight starts with Utica after he was reassigned to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. Why he has only played three times to date isn’t known, as you’d expect he’d have played two or three more times if he was supposed to play eight games in all.
DiPietro was the Canucks’ taxi-squad goalie for most of the season, after the team chose not to sign another netminder to serve as their league-mandated No. 3 goalie for apparent budgetary reasons. It’s meant that DiPietro went more than a year between games, as he was nothing more than a practice goalie in Vancouver and wasn’t loaned to a European club last fall, where he might have been able to at least play some games.
Practising can only do so much for a player’s development; at some point, those skills need to be tested and refined in games for development to properly take place.
It’s believed that the Canucks had originally intended to reassign DiPietro to Utica in early April, while bringing Arturs Silovs back to Vancouver from the AHL Manitoba Moose, where he only started once, to serve as their taxi-squad goalie.
Of course the Canucks’ COVID-19 outbreak interfered with that plan and DiPietro wasn’t sent to Utica until Apr. 25.
CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal suggested Canucks rookie defenceman Jack Rathbone may get a call from USA Hockey to play at the worlds. J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes were both invited by Team USA, but have declined.