The 2018-19 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Awards? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but voting for the awards takes place when the regular season ends. There is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s goaltender who is adjudged to be the best at this position. At the end of each season, the thirty NHL general managers vote to determine the winner.
2018-19 Vezina Trophy Predictions
The game of hockey is changing, morphing into a faster, more prominently skill-based environment. Because of this, the job of a goaltender becomes even more difficult. Despite this, the Vezina Trophy is still a fiercely competitive award, with many candidates worthy of discussion. Here is a rundown of likely nominees.
Fredrick Andersen 59GP, 59GS, 2.73GAA, .918SV% ,1SO
Although not as statistically strong compared to some, for many reasons Frederick Andersen is instrumental to the Toronto Maple Leafs success. The Leafs are known for a highly skilled offensive with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares; but lack quality defense. The Danish goaltender has had to double his efforts between the pipes and would often face 30 plus shots a game. The 29-year-old veteran is third in the league in wins with 36. These statistics are despite an injury that saw him miss games during the holiday season.
Andersen’s reliability and consistency see him with an unchanged save percentage for the last three years. And aiming for a productive playoff run. However, they have yet to progress past the first round in their last two attempts.
Andersen was nominated fourth for the Vezina Trophy last season but has yet to win.
Ben Bishop 46GP, GS45, 1.98GAA, .934SV%, 7SO
Unlike Andersen, the Dallas Stars goaltender, like his team, have risen from the ashes from what was a dismal start. Injury concerns have plagued the 32-year-old throughout. But Bishop is still looking at a career-best in save percentage (first in the league) and goals against average (second in the league). Bishop’s work ethic and stability when playing gave Dallas breathing room to find their offensive rhythm. Which now places the Stars into a wild-card playoff spot, their first postseason appearance since the 2015-16 season.
Although time off with injury work against the Denver native, he is still worth considering for the Vezina Trophy. That being based purely on the complete turnaround of his team and impressive statistics.
Bishop has yet to win the Vezina Trophy but has been nominated third and second twice in his career.
Robin Lehner 46GP, GS43, 2.13GAA, .930SV% 6SO
The 27-year-old is already earmarked to win the William M. Jennings Trophy based on his excellent GAA. But when he was picked up by the New York Islanders it was considered a make or break decision for the Swede’s NHL career. However, Lehner was unphased, now ranking third in the league for goals against average and save percentage (tied with Jordan Binnington).
Lehner and the Islanders have surpassed expectations and have become real contenders in the tough Metropolitan Division. Poor goaltending was a prominent reason for the Islanders failing to see the playoffs last season. With offensive combinations such as Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal, combined with such stability in net, the Islanders are difficult to beat. However, Lahner’s downfall could be his lack of playoff experience, with only two games played with the Ottawa Senators in 2012-13.
Marc-Andre Fleury 60GP, GS5960, 2.48GAA, .914Sv% 8SO
Fleury is considered on a downward trend after back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury has proven critics wrong by achieving great success with the Vegas Golden Knights. For the second time in their second year of the expansion team’s history, the Knights are heading to the playoffs. Currently Fleury ranks second in the league for most shutouts, as the 34-year-old continues to remain solid between the pipes.
The Canadian veteran’s agility and awareness put him as a formidable contender for the Vezina Trophy this year. Surprisingly Fleury has never won the Vezina but has been listed three times in his career.
John Gibson 58GP, 57GS, 2.84GAA, .917SV%, 2SO
A special mention has to go to Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson. The 25-year-old has been outstanding this season, despite the team’s best efforts. Continued injury concerns and lack of coercion offensively and defensively see the Ducks with a 35-37-10 record this season. Without Gibson, the Ducks would likely be bottom of the Central Division.
Gibson deserves the Vezina Trophy for his efforts but it is difficult to say with the Ducks tragic season. The American native had been nominated in 2015-16.
Jordan Binnington 32GP, 30GS, 1.89GAA, .927SV%, 5SO
From a tragic season to an elated one. The 25-year-old Binnington had played just one NHL game for St. Louis Blues in the 2015-16 season. In January it looked unlikely that the Blues would reach the playoffs. However, with Binnington’s efforts, they now sit third in the Central Division.
The Canadian native is top in the league for goals against average, which is impressive with so little experience. However, because of lack of experience, this is only an honorary mention. Although well deserved, it’s unlikely Binnington will win the Vezina Trophy this year. He is definitely a goaltender to watch in the future.
Andrei Vasilevskiy 53GP, 53GS, 2.40GAA, .925SV%, 6SO
Vasilevskiy is the strongest contender for the Vezina Trophy this year. The dominant team in the league has a formidable goaltender between the pipes. Ranked first in the league in wins with 39, and top 10 in GAA and SV%. The 24-year-old may not look as impressive statistically against others but has been consistently difficult to score against.
While skillful in all attributes, it can be argued that the Russian goaltender has an easier job based on the strong team in front of him. The Tampa Bay Lightning are serious competition for the defending champion Washington Capitals for the throne this year.