Like many his age, Thatcher Demko spent the summer preparing for the move to college. But his preparation was hardly ordinary.
Demko committed to Boston College last season while playing for the U.S. National Under-18 Team, thinking he would start in 2014-15. But when BC graduated goalie Parker Milner, who helped lead the Eagles to the national title in 2012, the move to Beantown was expedited.
Demko, 17, completed a series of summer courses in order to finish high school a year early so he could start college one year early, this fall.
“It was definitely a grind this summer,” Demko admitted. “It wasn’t very relaxing. I think I had nine days at home when I wasn’t doing schoolwork before I came [to BC].”
Before he’ll ever suit up for the Eagles, however, Demko will participate in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 in Pittsburgh.
Having had so many Team USA U18 teammates participate in last year’s game, Demko said he is looking forward to his shot at the AAPG. Mostly, Demko says he is excited to meet some of his fellow draft-eligible peers.
“You meet a lot of guys from your draft class that are top-end American guys,” said the San Diego native. “I think the American hockey community is really strong, so it’s always nice to meet new guys and get to know them.”
One of four goalies invited, Demko comes into this season as one of the top netminders eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft after an incredible season at the National Team Development Program last year.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound goaltender posted a 27-9-4 record, 2.11 goals-against average and .907 save percentage for the U18 team in 2012-13. Among his 27 victories between the pipes were six wins against NCAA Division I schools, including the team’s first win against Ann Arbor neighbor University of Michigan. Demko was also in net for ties against Notre Dame and then-No. 1 ranked New Hampshire, and he started every game at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, where Team USA took the silver medal.
Despite that experience and potential confidence booster heading into his first year of college hockey, Demko, who also spent a season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, doesn’t like looking back.
“It was definitely a good experience coming into this year,” Demko said of games against Division I opponents. “I wouldn’t say it’s a confidence boost at all, though. You’ve got to stay focused on what’s coming up and can’t really look at the past.”
With that in mind, Demko is preparing for the opportunity in front of him at the All-American Prospects Game as well.
“My goal is just to play my best, which is the goal for every game you play,” Demko said.
Though he played in front of scouts on a nightly basis while at the NTDP, it wasn’t yet his draft year, so he knows the added attention will start in Pittsburgh.
“[I hope to] take away the experience of playing in front of some scouts,” he said. “Now that the draft year is coming around, there will be more eyes on us now.”
While Demko will look to make a good impression in Pittsburgh, the scouts will be paying closest attention to what the big netminder does as a freshman at Boston College, where he is likely to get considerable playing time despite his youth.
Even as the NHL Draft looms large for the goaltender, team goals take precedence.
“You want to win national championships,” he said. “That’s on the top of not only mine, but the team’s to do list this year. Winning the Beanpot is a big one for us and winning Hockey East as well.”
Despite arriving at BC a year early, it’s been a long road for Demko to reach this point of his young career.
Living in a non-traditional hockey area, Demko fell into the sport due to his Canadian father’s love of the game. After watching enough games on television with his dad Brenton, Thatcher decided he wanted to try it himself.
“The first time I tried skating, I absolutely hated it,” Demko admitted with a laugh. “[Dad] took me back a year later and it kind of took off from there.”
So how did he decide he wanted to strap on the big pads?
“When you’re younger, they rotate goalies every week, so every week I had my hand up,” Demko said. “I was about 10 years old when I stuck with it permanently.”
While he might already be more than 3,000 miles from home, Demko hopes his hockey career takes him even farther.
“My No. 1 goal is to play in the NHL,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.