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Top 5 Candidates For the 2022-23 Vezina Trophy

In the world of NHL goaltending, there's a new sheriff in town. Igor Shesterkin won his first Vezina Trophy last season, but will someone steal it away from him this coming season?
Igor Shesterkin

In the world of NHL goaltending, there's a new sheriff in town.

Last season, Igor Shesterkin earned his first Vezina Trophy at age 26. In just his third NHL season, his heroics helped turn the New York Rangers into playoff contenders and earned him third place in Hart Trophy balloting as NHL MVP.

Shesterkin looks set to dominate at his position for years to come. But the NHL's 32 general managers vote for the Vezina, given "to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position." It's a small voting pool, and hasn't delivered a repeat winner since Martin Brodeur took home the award in 2007 and 2008. Among active stoppers, Sergei Bobrovsky is the only two-time winner (2013 and 2017).

Here's a look at Shesterkin's case for this season, and the rivals who could challenge him.

1. Igor Shesterkin - New York Rangers

It has been a swift rise for Shesterkin. He went from a 12-game audition in the 2019-20 season to 35 games in the shortened 2020-21 campaign, then made 56 appearances last season, when he led the NHL with a .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average.

General managers seem to weight goalies' wins quite heavily when they vote for the Vezina, and Shesterkin has delivered those as well. In exactly 100 career regular-season games, his record to date is 62-29-7.

With a successful playoff run also now on his resume, Shesterkin has shown that he can handle even the most high-pressure environments. As long as he stays healthy, the Vezina should be his to lose in the 2022-23 season.

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been bumped off their Stanley Cup perch, but Andrei Vasilevskiy remains one of the most technically proficient goalies in the NHL. He's also an absolute workhorse.

Second only to Connor Hellebuyck in total regular-season minutes played over the last five seasons, Vasilevskiy has also led the NHL in wins in each those years. He was named a Vezina finalist four times, and took home the award in 2019. 

In the playoffs over the last five years, Vasilevskiy's 5,735 minutes played are nearly twice as many as second-place Marc-Andre Fleury (3,232:39). For his efforts, he has two Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy.

That heavy workload may eventually take a toll. But it hasn't yet and at age 28, Vasilevskiy is still very much in his prime. 

Don't be surprised to see him back in Vezina contention again this season.

3. Frederik Andersen - Carolina Hurricanes

A mid-April knee injury marked a disappointing end to Frederik Andersen's first season with the Carolina Hurricanes. His 2.17 goals-against average was the best of his career, and he and Antti Raanta shared the William B. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in 2021-22 — Andersen's second Jennings win.

He and Raanta will be partnered again this season, behind a Hurricanes team that's known for its strong defensive structure. Andersen is turning 33 on October 2, and Father Time catches up with every hockey player sooner or later. But with the Hurricanes expected to challenge for top spot in the NHL standings once again, look for Denmark's top stopper to deliver a campaign that could earn him a finalist spot in Vezina voting after two previous fourth-place finishes. 

4. Juuse Saros - Nashville Predators

Just as Shesterkin has ably followed up franchise legend Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers, Juuse Saros has been equally impressive while succeeding Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators.

In his first year as an NHL starter, Saros led the NHL with 67 starts last season, and finished third in Vezina voting as he helped the Predators snag the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. But an ankle injury sustained in the last week of the regular season kept him out of the playoffs, and a matchup against the juggernaut Colorado Avalanche ended the Preds' postseason almost as soon as it began.

Nashville is returning most of its roster this season, and has added veteran leader Ryan McDonagh to its blue line. Now fully recovered from his injury, Saros is primed to prove that he can maintain the high standard of play that he delivered last season.

5. Jake Oettinger - Dallas Stars

A highly regarded product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Jake Oettinger was the last man standing in net for the Dallas Stars in 2021-22 — and made the most of his moment.

Oettinger went into last season as the Stars' third goalie, behind Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin. He made a strong early impression when he started four of the club's first six games, giving up just five goals and earning four wins. 

Not long after his 23rd birthday on Dec. 18, Oettinger had worked himself into the starter's role. Then, in the playoffs, he served notice that he could hang with the best in the game when he posted a .954 save percentage while facing an average of nearly 39 shots a game in Dallas' first-round nail-biter against the Calgary Flames.

With new coach Peter DeBoer now at the helm, the Stars aren't expected to be as defensively focused as they were under Rick Bowness. But with any luck, that should also mean more run support for Oettinger. Dallas ranked 21st in goals per game last season.

After signing his new three-year bridge contract on Sept. 1, Oettinger is in prime position to become this season's breakout star in net and earn his first Vezina consideration.

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