The midway point of the 2021-22 NHL season is fast approaching (postponements aside) and it is the perfect time to start reflecting on some of the early award races. Thinking about the league’s top goaltenders so far, I don’t know if I can remember a season with so many potential Vezina candidates. That really made me interested in giving the list of the league’s top goalies a deeper look. So here’s a quick rundown of the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy Race.
Back when he was drafted 10th overall in 2011, Jack Campbell was an incredibly highly touted prospect and we were all wondering when he would break into the NHL. It took some time, but here we are 10 years later and Campbell seems to have finally broken out with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After the goalie position has been a bit tumultuous in Toronto for a few years, between a rotating cast of backups and Freddie Andersen’s injuries and inconsistency, Jack Campbell seems to have grabbed the starter’s job for the Maple Leafs.
At this point, Campbell is my favourite to win the award, by a small margin. The Maple Leafs do have a very strong roster in front of Campbell, one that is regularly a playoff lock and is currently 3rd in the league in points percentage. But Jack Campbell’s individual numbers, especially his league leading goals saved above average of 20.7, make him stand out as a goalie making a good team even better.
His 17-5-3 record with a 1.99 GAA (3rd in the league) and .936 SV% (T1st in the league) are a statline well deserving of a Vezina trophy. He is also making highlight reel saves like this one.
In my opinion, Campbell is the early season favourite for the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy
In just his second full season in the NHL, Igor Shesterkin has taken the crease by storm. Quickly becoming the Rangers’ full-time starter, Shesterkin has been a huge reason why the Rangers are sitting tied for the Metro Division lead and fifth in the NHL for points percentage.
Shesterkin sits tied for the league lead in save percentage (.936) and fourth with a 2.09 GAA. His goals saved above average is third in the league at 17.1. He hasnt played as many games as some of the other starters and Vezina contenders, but his sample size is big enough to place him very high up in the rankings for the league’s top goaltender.
His 2021-22 season may not be as statistically dominant as others, but after four consecutive seasons being a Vezina finalist (and one Vezina Trophy win) Andrei Vasilevskiy is a shoe-in to receive a ton of votes for this award. And, he still does deserve it as Vasilevskiy is probably the best goalie in the league right now.
Andrei is tied for the league lead in wins at 19, eighth of goalies with 20GP with a .923 SV%, and seventh with a 2.23 GAA as well as an 11.17 GSAA. Vasilevskiy having the most wins is huge, as wins and record tends to be a huge factor for the NHL GM’s, who vote for the Vezina Trophy.
On a Nashville Predators team that had been slowly falling down the standings after a couple of seasons as a top contender, Juuse Saros has slowed and even turned around that downward trajectory. After taking over from Pekka Rinne over the last few seasons, fully doing so after Rinne retired this past offseason, Saros has emerged as one of the league’s top goalies and one who is a gamechanger.
The amount of highlight reel saves in big moments that Juuse Saros makes have him battling Roman Josi as the team’s best player.
Saros currently sits tied for the league lead with 19 wins, second in GSAA at 17.58, fourth with a .929 SV%, and sixth with a 2.21 GAA. Saros doesn’t get a whole lot of attention quite yet. But after how the Nashville Predators turned their season around in 2020-21 when Saros went on a tear, continuing that trend into the 2021-22 season even as most people predicted the Predators would struggle in a tough division, it is time for Saros to gain some of that well-deserved attention.
What an incredible bounceback season for Tristan Jarry. He was not very good in 2020-21, with a .909 SV% and 2.75 GAA, and being most remembered for a gaffe in the playoffs that cost the Penguins an important game.
But after an offseason of wondering if the Penguins would give Jarry another chance or if they’d trade him and go with Casey Desmith, Tristan Jarry was given the starter’s crease again and he has done nothing but impress.
He currently sits fourth in the league with a 16.49 GSAA, indicating that he has been a crucial part of keeping the Penguins competitive in a season where they’ve been missing their best skaters (Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust) for extended stretches of games. Jarry’s record on the season is 17-6-4 so far.
Jarry is also third with a .931 SV% and leads the league with a 1.94 GAA. His statline might indicate he would get more consideration for the award, but it is tough competition in the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy race and he might get overlooked.
His first season in Calgary was a bit disappointing, but he came out flying for his second season. Early on, Markstrom was by far the favourite. He started the year with 5 shutouts in his first 13 games. He has trailed off a bit since then but still leads the league in shutouts, sits sixth in SV% at .926 and in GSAA at 11.70, and fifth in GAA at 2.15.
His play, especially early on, is one of the biggest reasons the Flames sit third in the Pacific Division. Markstrom might not be a favourite for the Vezina, but he should definitely get some consideration and be on a few ballots by the end of the year.
It’s been widely documented how bad of a state the Vancouver Canucks were in early on this season until the housecleaning happened. Despite the team’s poor play, Thatcher Demko has stood out as an elite calibre goalie who gave the Canucks a chance. Even when the team was at its worst, Demko was still only letting in 2 or 3 goals in most games.
Although his stats do not stand out as a Vezina winning goalie, sitting with a .920 SV%, 2.55 GAA, and a 15-11-1 record, those numbers do not reflect Demko’s impact on the game and the team.
It’s stuff like this sequence from earlier this season that showcase how absurdly good Demko can be, and how much he means to the other players.
Since Boudreau took over the Canucks bench, Demko has given up ten goals in seven games and recorded a .955 SV%. If the Canucks keep up their level of play from December through the end of the season, we may see Thatcher Demko become a strong contender for the Vezina Trophy.
Is this a case of the team making the goalie or the goalie making the team? We may never be able to fully figure this out, but Frederik Andersen has been a very solid addition for the Carolina Hurricanes. As he fizzled his way out of Toronto, a combination of underperforming and injury issues making him unreliable, Andersen found his way into a great situation with a strong Hurricanes team.
Through his first 23 games in Carolina, Andersen has an 18-5-0 record, is fifth with a .929 SV% and 11.94 GSAA, and second in GAA at 1.96. Andersen might be a bit of a dark horse for the award this season, as he could very well end up leading (or close to leading) all major goalie stat categories. If he stays healthy, that is.
If I had to pick right now and submit a ballot for the Vezina, I would place Jack Campbell first, Juuse Saros second, and Tristan Jarry at third. To me, these three have been the biggest contributors to team success while still maintaining the traditionally impressive statline.
Campbell has given Toronto a stability in net they have not seen in years. His play helps bolster an already strong defense, giving the skaters some confidence that their goalie will be able to make a few big saves.
Juuse Saros, in my opinion, is the most important goalie to his team’s success so far. We saw how he impacted the Predators’ late season push in 2020-21, and we are now seeing a continuation of that in 2021-22.
Tristan Jarry has had a stellar bounceback season and as mentioned before, has kept the Penguins competitive despite missing many of their most important skaters. To be giving up less than 2 goals per game is amazing, though it won’t be sustainable over a full season.
Who do you have on your Vezina Trophy ballot? Let us know on social media, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!. Make sure you check out our podcast as well, find it on any major streaming platform!