This week, I will focus on the first individual award of the column: the Vezina Trophy.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the best goaltender of the NHL season.
Vezina Trophy Winner: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck has been the undisputed top goaltender so far this season. With the best goals against average and second-best save percentage among all goaltenders, Hellebuyck has been completely dominant. His GAA of a low 2.20 is almost unheard of in the modern game, one in which offensive talent, speed and goalscoring are becoming more prominent. In addition, his save percentage of 0.924 is extremely impressive, especially for a goaltender who has played a high number of games. Hellebuyck’s dominant play has been the main driver for the Jets’ drastic improvement from last year and why they are one of the biggest contenders for the Stanley Cup this year. Not only has Hellebuyck been the best goaltender in the NHL this season, but he has also likely been the goaltender most valuable to his respective team.
Vezina Trophy Runner-Up: Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman has been rock solid this season as well, as he currently holds the best save percentage in the league with .925. He also has the second-best GAA for all goaltenders at 2.30, slightly behind Hellebuyck’s GAA. The Bruins have two starting-caliber goalies, as Boston’s other goaltender Linus Ullmark and Swayman almost evenly split up starts. Ullmark, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, has also had a very good season for Boston, but Swayman has been on another level. Boston is very lucky to have two elite goaltenders and a Vezina-caliber goalie in Swayman this season, and this will be especially important for the club come playoff time.
Vezina Trophy Third Place: Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko has also been one of the top-tier goalies in the NHL this season, and a main reason why the Canucks are having a great season and are expected to make a push for the Stanley Cup. Demko also has very good stats, with a .920 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA. Demko has always been a good goalie. However, over the years there has been some inconsistency in his game from time to time. But this year he has taken the next step, and in doing so the Canucks have greatly benefited. Obviously, the Canucks have seen many improvements with their skaters, but their vast improvement this season would not have been possible without Demko’s elite level of goaltending. For these reasons, Thatcher Demko has been a top three goalie in hockey this season and will be one of the finalists for the Vezina Trophy.