ST. LOUIS — Jacob Markstrom said he is confident he’ll remain with the Vancouver Canucks past this season and wants to play with their young talent for many years to come.
The goalie, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, will be one of three Vancouver representatives at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), joining second-year center Elias Pettersson, 21, and rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes, 20.
“I’m just focused on the season,” Markstrom said at All-Star Game Media Day on Thursday when asked about ongoing contract talks with the Canucks. “Obviously, I want to stay in Vancouver, but I’m sure the people with the suits will figure it out with my agent. I’ve just got to play hockey, and if I play good, I’m sure I’ll get to stay.”
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The Canucks (27-18-4) lead the Pacific Division at the All-Star break, and Markstrom is on pace for his best NHL season as a full-time starter, going 18-13-3 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 34 games. The 29-year-old credited his teammates, both young and old, for his first All-Star appearance in his 10th NHL season.
“It’s honoring and humbling for sure,” he said. “For me personally, I’ve put in so much time and effort into Vancouver to help the team win. My teammates and our defensemen this year have done a tremendous job helping me, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Markstrom said it’s good to see the Canucks getting more recognition around the League and their young team in contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Vancouver did not qualify the past four seasons.
“From watching the last few years with Bo Horvat in the All-Star Game (in 2017), [Brock] Boeser (in 2018), [Pettersson] two years in a row and Hughes now, we’re doing really good with our player development and drafting.” Markstrom said. “The future is looking bright in Vancouver.”
Markstrom was selected for the All-Star Game as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights, but Hughes said the Vancouver goalie should have been the first player selected for the event from the Canucks.
“[Markstrom] has been tremendous and deserves to be here, more so than any of us,” Hughes said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for [Markstrom], not just for the player he is, but the person; very welcoming person, great leader, and I think he’s really important in the locker room. He’s single-handedly won a lot of games for us, so it’s great to have him.”
Pettersson agreed that Markstrom’s stability is perhaps the biggest reason the Canucks have had so much success.
“He is standing on his head most of the games,” Pettersson said. “He always gives us an opportunity to win the game, making big saves. He’s been huge for us, and it’s really impressive the way he plays after all he’s been through.”
Markstrom, in his seventh season with the Canucks, played at least 60 games in each of the past two seasons. He had an NHL career-high 28 wins last season.
“It’s super exciting times in Vancouver,” Markstrom said. “It’s never fun to be in a kind of rebuild process, and, as a goalie too, it’s frustrating — you want to win hockey games. Now we’ve got a little flash, and people are excited around town and at the rink. You definitely want to be a part of something in a Canadian market and be a successful team.”
Markstrom said he knows the All-Star selection could raise his profile around the League, especially in a contract year, but he’s more concerned about the standings. Four teams — the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Arizona Coyotes and Golden Knights — are one point behind the Canucks in the Pacific.
“After this weekend, we have to go back to work,” he said, “and our division is tight.”