January 21 – Vezina Outlook & The Battle for No. 1

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

FIGHT TO THE FINNISH: The Finnish Olympic team roster was unveiled on Thursday, complete with plenty of names familiar to NHL fans. Sami Vatanen, Valteri Filppula and Leo Komarov headline a group featuring four players who were in the league a year ago. In Beijing, the Finns will look to improve upon a disappointing quarter-final loss to Canada four years ago in South Korea.

EMPTY ARENAS AREN’T GONE YET: Although the province of Ontario announced the lifting of some COVID restrictions on Thursday, sporting and concert venues will continue to be capped at 500 spectators until February 21, when they can re-open to 50% capacity This means that fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will be waiting a little longer to see their favorite teams play at home in person.

SABRES LOSE SUBBAN: Malcolm Subban is done for the season. The team announced the goalie had surgery for an upper-body injury and head coach Don Granato told the media that he will most likely not be able to return. The Sabres have used six goaltenders this season and losing Subban is a tough blow as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Craig Anderson, and Dustin Tokarski are all currently unavailable.

NOT SO FAST, JACK: Fans in Vegas will have to wait another month or two until they see Jack Eichel hit the ice. He has skated with the team and will travel with them next week, but according to head coach Peter DeBoer, his debut will be around the NHL Trade Deadline.

INSULT AND INJURY: The Philadelphia Flyers dropped their 10th straight, falling 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a nine-game NHL slate on Thursday. Also slipping further were the Edmonton Oilers, who got crushed 6-0 on home ice by the Florida Panthers for their seventh loss in a row and 13th in their past 15. The Boston Bruins topped the Washington Capitals 4-3 thanks to a late Charlie McAvoy goal but lost Brad Marchand to an upper-body injury.

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

22 Goes to the Rafters

The Boston Bruins officially retired Willie O’Ree’s number 22 before their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday on what was the 64th anniversary of his groundbreaking NHL debut. He only played 45 NHL games—all with the Bruins—during the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons. The now 86-year-old appeared virtually during the ceremony from his home in San Diego. O’Ree’s jersey now hangs among the 12 retired numbers at TD Garden.

Pronger Toasts Fans During Ceremony

O’Ree was not the only player to see his number raised to the rafters this week. The St. Louis Blues retired Chris Pronger’s number, and when you’re the man of honor, you can do whatever you want…like chug a beer in the middle of the ceremony. The 6-foot-6 defenseman spent nine of his 18 NHL seasons with the Blues. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 and won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.

Donato and Cave’s Special Bond

Earlier this season, Seattle Kraken forward Ryan Donato was gifted a game-worn tie from Colby Cave’s wife Emily that was to bring him “luck and safety” this season. He opted to wear the tie on Monday knowing Emily would be in attendance. By the end of the night, he was named the game’s first star after scoring the tying goal in the third period and the first goal of the shootout.

Vezina Trophy Watch

On this day in 1887, Georges Vézina was born. He died in 1926, but his name continues to live on. The Canadian goaltender was the namesake for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the best goalie in the NHL. With that in mind, let’s celebrate one of hockey’s earliest human brick walls with an early look at the race for the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy.

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Campbell currently ranks among the favorites to win the Vezina, and for good reason. After going 17-3-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average (GAA) and a .921 save percentage (SV%) in 22 games last season, the 30-year-old is 19-6 through 29 games this year, sporting a 2.24 GAA, a .927 SV% and four shutouts.

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

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Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Shesterkin has been outstanding since arriving in New York three years ago. This season, the 26-year-old is 18-4-0 with a 2.03 GAA, a .938 SV% (first in the league) and three shutouts in 22 games. He also leads the league in advanced statistics like goals saved above expected (21.8, according to MoneyPuck.com) and wins above replacement (3.64) and is a major reason the Rangers lead the Metro Division with a record of 26-10-4. He’s only below Campbell because he’s played seven fewer games.

Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes

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Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

After being outplayed by Campbell last season in Toronto, Andersen has bounced back in his first year in Carolina, posting a GAA of 1.99 (best among goalies with at least five games played), a SV% of .930, and a 20-6-0 record in 26 games. He also ranks just below Shesterkin in multiple advanced statistical categories. At 26-8-2, Andersen’s Hurricanes are two points behind the Rangers with four fewer games played.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Vasilevskiy shows up on lists like this every season, and this year is no different. The former Vezina Trophy winner, whose 27-9-5 Lightning are the best team in the NHL, leads all goaltenders in wins (23). He also has a 2.20 GAA and a .923 SV% in 26 games. Some of his numbers don’t stack up with the other contenders for this award, but he’s been the most consistent and has the most pedigree.

Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames

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Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Markstrom has been hot for the Flames, going 13-8-0 with a 2.18 GAA and a .926 SV% in 26 games. Of the players on this list, his team has performed the worst. Calgary is fifth in the Pacific Division with a record of 18-11-6.

Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

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Photo via Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Saros has played more than any other goaltender, registering a 20-11-0 record, a 2.43 GAA and a .923 SV% in 33 games. He’s been a catalyst for the pleasantly surprising Predators, who are tied for second in the Central Division with a record of 24-14-3.

Who’s the Wright Choice?

Heading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, there has long been a general consensus that prospects would be vying to see who went No. 2 behind Shane Wright of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. That may no longer be the case.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie highlighted in his Mid-Season NHL Draft Rankings, the gap between Wright and the rest of the field has closed considerably. The 18-year-old’s development stalled last year with the OHL losing an entire season due to the pandemic. This year, he missed a major opportunity with the cancellation of the World Junior Championships and was slowed by his own bout with COVID, underwhelming scouts with 31 points in 25 games so far this season.

With Wright’s draft stock falling, we suddenly have ourselves a tight race for No. 1 on July 7. Let’s break down the names to watch as we wait to see who goes first overall.

Shane Wright

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Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (Photo by Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

Don’t count out the incumbent yet! McKenzie noted that nine out of 10 scouts he spoke to still had Wright narrowly ahead of the rest of the draft class. He remains an elite two-way player with a high hockey IQ and has gone through enough to make some slight regression understandable. It’s easy to imagine whatever front office wields the top pick ultimately proving unable to resist the potential of the former phenom.

Logan Cooley

Logan Cooley, USNTDP U18 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Wright’s main rival to be the first name off the board in Montreal is American U-18 star Logan Cooley. A highly skilled 5-foot-10 center capable of driving a team’s offense, Cooley is an explosive player who also boasts a physical edge to his game. If the Pittsburgh native were two inches taller, this might not be much of a competition.

Joachim Kemell

Joakim Kemell, JYP (Photo: Jiri Halttunen)

Speaking of height concerns, 5-foot-9 speedy Finnish winger Joachim Kemell has been turning heads in the Finnish Elite League, scoring 12 goals in 21 games. Kemell’s No. 1 pick hopes are buoyed by a high ceiling offensive game, as well as a skill-oriented game that increasingly favors speed and play-making over size. All told, we’re looking at a far more interesting draft battle than was projected a few months ago.

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NHL’s Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule