Analyzing the Vezina Trophy Contenders in the 2023-24 NHL Season
As we've completed the first quarter of the 2023-24 NHL season, it's high time we delve into the discussion about the top contenders for the Vezina Trophy. This highly coveted award, recognizing the crème de la crème of goaltenders, is not only a testament to individual skill but also a pivotal factor in showcasing the team's defensive prowess.
With that said, let's take a closer look at the top goaltenders who have been turning heads with their performances so far.
Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks has, without a doubt, emerged as one of the finest goaltenders this season, boasting an impressive record of 11-5-0 in 16 games started. His performance has not only been crucial for his team's stability between the pipes but has also earned him two shutouts.
The figure that truly stands out is his 2.10 Goals Against Average (GAA), the fourth-best in the NHL, and a save percentage of .928, the fifth-best in the league. But perhaps most noteworthy is his leading stat in Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx), where he outshines the competition at 13.02. While it remains to be seen if Demko, with a career save percentage of .911, can sustain this pace, there's no doubt that he's currently a force to be reckoned with.
At +600, these might be the best FanDuel NHL odds you'll see for Demko this season. If Vancouver's ability to limit offenses (50.82 Corsi Against per 60 minutes) is a lasting trait, Demko will undoubtedly be a significant part of the equation.
Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars is another goaltender worth keeping an eye on. While he may not have peaked in terms of performance yet this season, the odds of +650 indicate he has the potential to do so. Oettinger has been a cornerstone of the Stars' success, having already started in 15 of their 20 games.
His Goals Against Average (GAA) stands at 2.53 with a save percentage (Sv%) of .916, both higher than his career averages of 2.45 and .916, respectively. Despite a difficult recent game where he allowed six goals, Oettinger's consistency and the increased reliance on him by the Stars suggest he has a fair chance of bettering his stats as the season progresses. His Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) of 2.33, ranking 29th in the NHL, further illustrates this.
Although Thatcher Demko currently has a stronger form, and others are climbing the ranks, Oettinger's performance is definitely one to monitor throughout the season.
The Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck stands as a formidable contender for the Vezina Trophy. A former winner himself, Hellebuyck has been showcasing stellar performance this season, with a Goal Against Average (GAA) of 2.62 and a save percentage (Sv%) of .908. After a somewhat slow start, he's significantly upped his game in recent weeks, allowing just six goals in his last four games, which included his first shutout of the season.
Hellebuyck's record of 10-5-1 contributes positively to his candidacy. On the advanced metrics front, he has saved 5.37 goals, which is above expectation, ranking 15th in the league. With the Winnipeg Jets' solid defense ahead of him (54.51 Corsi Against per 60), Hellebuyck is projected to build on his current performance. As the Vezina Trophy still hangs in the balance at +750, Hellebuyck is a strong bet at this point in the season.
Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders comes in at +750, and his performance deserves commendation despite his team’s struggles. The Islanders have struggled on both sides of the ice, scoring the third-fewest goals per hour (2.50) and giving the second-most opportunities to their opponents with a Corsi Against of 70.03 per hour.
Despite these challenges, Sorokin has stood tall, showcasing resilience with a .913 Sv%, a figure that, while below his career average, still ranks him 11th in the NHL. His GAA stands at a career-high 2.41, yet he's managed to save 7.28 goals above expectation, a figure that puts him in the top 10 league-wide.
If the Islanders can pull together and provide him with more support, he could well have a shot at the Vezina Trophy. However, with the constant barrage of 33-plus shots he's faced in five consecutive starts, it's a steep climb to get there.
Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers, the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy winner, has once again proven his worth in the current season. He has kicked off with an impressive 9-4-0 record in his first 13 starts, boasting a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.54 and a Save Percentage (Sv%) of .915. This performance is boosted by strong support from the rest of his team, notably former All-Star Jonathan Quick, who has been playing some of his best hockey in years.
Last season, we observed Shesterkin occasionally running out of steam after starting 58 games for the Rangers. However, his performance this season suggests a more consistent approach. We must also consider that Shesterkin plays for one of the current best teams in the NHL – the New York Rangers. If the team can maintain the solid gameplay we've seen in their first 21 games (16-4-1 record), Shesterkin should be in the running for the Vezina Trophy once again. Remember, a significant reason why Sorokin was overlooked for last year's award was due to team success, a condition Shesterkin has fulfilled.