Vezina Trophy race: Andersen, Campbell, Shesterkin, and more

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With about a quarter of the 2021-22 NHL season in the books, PHT will break down races for major awards. This feature continues with the wide-open race for the Vezina Trophy. Here’s our look at the race for the Calder Trophy, as well as the Norris.

Note: stats collected from before Tuesday’s games, unless otherwise noted. The NHL’s general managers vote for the Vezina Trophy each season.

Vezina Trophy race: plenty of goalies off to impressive starts

Much like the Norris Trophy, there are a lot of goalies with a claim to Vezina relevance — at least late in November. Unlike the Norris, the reigning Vezina winner (Marc-Andre Fleury) is not one of the frontrunners.

As mentioned above, NHL GMs vote for the Vezina Trophy, rather than writers or goaltending peers. With that in mind, a simple stat like wins could be a more meaningful “tiebreaker” than it would be if analytics-minded people determined the Vezina Trophy winner.

(That said, this post will include some “fancy stats” to try to cover multiple dimensions.)

Last season’s Maple Leafs creasemates could be the frontrunners

In 2020-21, Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell were key goalies for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now they’re arguably the (very early) Vezina frontrunners, as both Andersen and Campbell combine top win totals with strong individual stats.

Andersen currently leads the NHL with 11 wins (11-2-0), with strong numbers to boot (.937 save percentage). By Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR), Andersen is tied with Igor Shesterkin for second overall with 13.1. Andersen ranks third in Hockey Reference’s version* of Goals Saved Against Average (GSAA) with 9.54.

Stats like GAR and GSAA aim to isolate a goalie’s performance from the team in front of them. That said, some might poke minor holes in Andersen’s argument because of the Hurricanes’ overall dominance.

As strong as Andersen’s early Vezina argument is, Jack Campbell’s might be even better. Campbell ranks second in wins with 10 (10-4-1), and his stats are even stronger (including a .944 save percentage).

Campbell’s 13.88 GSAA leads the NHL. He’s tied for seventh in GAR with Carter Hart and Connor Hellebuyck at 10.7.

Campbell serves as a workhorse for a strong overall Maple Leafs team, albeit one that can be charged with playing “high-event” games all-around. It could be interesting if Petr Mrazek eats into Campbell’s starts, too. Being that Campbell’s career-high is 31 games played, it also remains to be seen if he’ll run out of steam. But he’s been excellent for quite some time now, and he’s also a heck of a story as a first-rounder who no longer seems like a “bust.”

* – Several sites present different versions of GSAA, GAR, and so on. For the sake of simplicity, this Vezina Trophy post will stick with Evolving Hockey’s GAR and Hockey Reference’s GSAA.

A ton of other quality Vezina candidates

  • John Gibson is 9-4-2 with a .925 save percentage, and he’s accomplished that on a Ducks team with low expectations. Gibson generally checks the other boxes: 5.86 GSAA (10th) and 7.3 GAR (13th).

  • Consider Igor Shesterkin one of the top Vezina contenders. Judging by the Rangers’ Swiss cheese defense, he’s been remarkable (9-3-2 record and .931 save percentage). Again, Shesterkin ties Andersen for second in GAR at 13.1, and ranks fifth in GSAA (8.14).

Shesterkin turns heads for how technically sound he is, yet he’s also an explosive athlete. That putrid Rangers defense makes his strong work tough to sustain, though. Maybe they’ll improve, and thus avoid submarining his chances?

  • On the opposite end of the spectrum from Shesterkin, we have Jacob Markstrom.

Under Darryl Sutter, Flames goaltender is a relatively cushy gig. Note that Dan Vladar is 4-0-1 with a tremendous .946 save percentage and two shutouts.

That said, Markstrom’s off to a start that absolutely warrants Vezina consideration. Old-school GMs will need to see an improvement from Markstrom’s 7-3-4 record (or at least for other Vezina candidates to cool off).

Those five shutouts keep Markstrom in the mix. Behind Campbell, Markstrom’s the only other goalie who’s above double-digits in GSAA with 12.34. His 13.7 GAR leads all goalies.

  • GMs who love redemption stories will gravitate to Sergei Bobrovsky. You don’t have to bend the truth to make a Vezina case for Bob, either. He’s 8-0-2 with a .937 save percentage. His 8.16 GSAA ranks fourth, and he places sixth in GAR with 11.3. It would really be something if Bobrovsky won his third Vezina Trophy after many left his career for dead.

[PHT’s Adam Gretz has more on Bob’s redemption]

  • Now, there are some mainstays who are hovering in the picture, but aren’t quite in the top ranks. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck remain sharp, and crucial to their teams. Their stats are closer to very good than the absolute top. You can say similar things about Juuse Saros. All three could easily move up the ranks as the weeks and months pass.

  • Carter Hart will need to play more, and win more (5-3-3). But he’s quietly off to a start that really must comfort Flyers fans and management.

  • Want some blasts from the past? Jonathan Quick‘s 4-4-2 record keeps his impressive .939 save percentage under the radar. Craig Anderson‘s save percentage is .921, in 2021-22. Even Martin Jones has a .920 save percentage. None of these goalies are really playing or winning enough to be serious Vezina Trophy threats, but it’s cool to see them rebound.

And, frankly, it’s a reminder of just how unpredictable the position — and thus, the Vezina Trophy race — can be.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Vezina Trophy race: Andersen, Campbell, Shesterkin, and more originally appeared on NBCSports.com