The accolades keep rolling in for Canucks prospects. On top of the SHL MVP for Elias Pettersson, the Allsvenskan MVP for Jonathan Dahlen, and the Liiga Rookie of the Year for Petrus Palmu, the Canucks’ prospect pool now boasts an award-winning goaltender.
After a sterling season for the Windsor Spitfires, Michael DiPietro has been named the Goaltender of the Year in the OHL.
DiPietro was selected by the Canucks in the third round of the 2017 draft, 64th overall, after leading the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup as a 17 year old. While the Spitfires were a significantly depleted team after their championship run — they notably traded away Gabriel Vilardi and Logan Brown, and saw their best defenceman, Mikhail Sergachev, graduate to the NHL — DiPietro kept the Spitfires competitive.
The 18-year-old played 56 of the Spitfires’ 68 games and broke his own franchise record for shutouts with seven, one more than his previous season. That also led the league by a wide margin — the next best goaltender had just four shutouts — and places him one career shutout short of the all-time OHL record of 16 shutouts held by Thomas McCollum.
While DiPietro’s save percentage dropped from .917 last season to .910 this season, that was still good enough for fifth in the OHL among goaltenders with at least 10 games played. The drop has to be partially explained by facing tougher shots on a weakened Spitfires team.
According to Prospect-Stats, DiPietro led the OHL in Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average (aGSAA) with 42.1. In other words, DiPietro saved 42.1 more goals against than the average OHL goaltender would have facing the same quality of shots.
All that is to say that the OHL chose correctly. DiPietro was the best goaltender in the OHL. Here’s how that selection process worked:
The OHL Goaltender of the Year is awarded to the league’s most outstanding goaltender as selected by OHL General Managers. Teams were not permitted to vote for a goaltender from their own hockey club. Goaltenders received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.
Since there are 20 OHL teams and therefore 20 general managers, the maximum points a goaltender could receive is 95, since their own GM cannot vote for them. DiPietro received an even 70 points from the vote, with second-place Jeremy Helvig, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, receiving 65 points.
His head coach with the Spitfires, Trevor Letowski, extolled DiPietro’s off-ice virtues.
“Mikey is so deserving of this award,” said Letowski. “No one works harder or is more dedicated. Even though he doesn’t wear a letter, he’s the leader of our team. He cares about his teammates, his community and doing things the right way. We’re all so proud of him.”
DiPietro is in Latvia with Team Canada preparing for the World Hockey Championships in Denmark, but posted his gratitude for the award on his Twitter account.
Thank you Windsor ✈️ pic.twitter.com/MUudAxVdV5— Michael DiPietro (@miketendy) May 2, 2018
“I would first off like to thank my amazing parents and family for supporting me in my goals,” said DiPietro, “as well as I would like to thank my amazing girlfriend for being by my side.”
He went on to thank the Spitfires organization and fans, as well as the OHL.
DiPietro is also the Spitfires' nominee for the Red Tilson Trophy for Most Outstanding Player and is now the OHL's nominee for CHL goaltender of the year. He'll have a tough task beating likely WHL goaltender of the year Carter Hart, who posted a stunning .947 save percentage in the high-scoring western league.
DiPietro is still a long way from the NHL and will be back with the Spitfires next season. He’ll be looking to break the Spitfires franchise record for wins — he’s just three wins away — as well as the OHL shutout record.
Canucks fans should get a chance to see him play in person at the 2019 World Junior tournament, as it will be in Vancouver. After getting cut the last two years, DiPietro is expected to be the starting goaltender for Team Canada.