Demko also was one of a dozen current and former NHL goalies who gathered on a Zoom call on New Year’s Eve to discuss goaltending and watch Knight help the United States defeat Sweden 4-0 in a preliminary-round game at the World Juniors in Edmonton. The call was organized by USA Hockey to continue building a sense of family among U.S.-born goalies. Thirty were on the call, including current people of the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, along with retired NHL goalies Robert Esche, Brian Boucher, Mike Richter and Jimmy Howard.
Among the active NHL goalies had been Demko, Ben Bishop and Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars, Cory Schneider of the New York Islanders and Ryan Miller of the Anaheim Ducks, who leads U.S.-born NHL goalies with 390 wins. Building a bond and a sense of community among the goalie fraternity in the United States is an important element of the growth at top levels, said Steve Thompson, American Development Model goaltending full color iron on transfers manager for USA Hockey. He says it also is vital to USA Hockey’s goal of having U.S.-born goalies playing 51 percent of the minutes in the NHL by 2030. The New Year’s Eve call included Jack McCartan, who won a gold medal with america at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. Jim Craig, who did the same at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, said he was inspired by McCartan.
Richter, who helped the United States win the 1996 Globe Cup of Hockey, talked about being influenced by Craig. Bishop discussed getting motivation early in his career from watching Richter. Knight being the central figure in the World Juniors game watched during that online gathering isn’t the only reason his NHL debut resonated. The young U.S.-born goalies making their way to the NHL will have experienced the changing environment, which includes launching a formal goaltending coach education and certification program in 2018. Knight, who played for the NTDP before playing two seasons at Boston College, benefited from another change: the decision to move the Warren Strelow Camp from May to early August, in part to increase the mentorship component by bringing in professional goalies. Howard and Demko are among the NHL goalies who have taken part and shared in the process of getting to know the next generation of goalies and exchanging concepts. Knight also appears destined to be a big component of achieving that moments goal in 2030. During 2007-08, U.S.-born goalies performed 11.45 percent of NHL minutes. That number peaked in 2017-18 at 23.54 percent. It dropped to 17.96 percent last season, partly because traditional starters such as Howard (Detroit Red Wings), Miller, Schneider (then with the brand new Jersey Devils) and Craig Anderson (then with the Ottawa Senators) each saw his custom jersey lettering role reduced.
This season that number is at 17.75 percent entering games Friday. Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner, College Iron On Transfers leads the way with an NHL-high 37 starts. The U.S.-born goalies making headlines this season in the NHL include Demko; Oettinger, 22; John Gibson, 27, of the Ducks; Alex Nedeljkovic, 25, of the Carolina Hurricanes; and Calvin Petersen, 26, of the Los Angeles Kings. Knight and Jeremy Swayman, a 22-year-aged rookie with the Boston Bruins, have added to the enthusiasm surrounding this crop of players at the position. Swayman is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in his first six NHL games.