Individual NHL trophies have a storied history, almost as long and significant as the Stanley Cup itself. They date back decades — in some cases, nearly 100 years — and have been awarded to a laundry list of the greatest players of all time. Though every player dreams of winning the Stanley Cup, individual hardware can define a career and can be the difference between reaching the Hockey Hall of Fame and retiring on the outside looking in at immortality.
Though the start of the NHL season is almost a month away, it’s never too early to start looking at who might win each major award. And even though there hasn’t been a single game played, we have a good idea of who the favorites are for each trophy. So in this series of articles, we’ll focus on the underdogs — the guys who have a shot but aren’t in focus entering the season. We’ll start with the Vezina Trophy, the award honoring the league’s top goaltender since 1926. According to SportsBettingDime, the favorites entering the season are reigning winner Igor Shesterkin, as well as his countrymen Andrei Vasilevskiy (the 2018-19 winner) and Ilya Sorokin (who finished sixth last year). So which outsiders might unseat this trio of dominant Russian netminders? Let’s dive in and take a closer look.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida Panthers
Current Odds: +3000
Who better to win the 2023 Vezina Trophy than the only active multiple-time winner, Sergei Bobrovsky? Another great Russian netminder, he struggled in his first two seasons after signing a massive contract with the Florida Panthers. But he clearly righted the ship last season, leading the league in wins for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers and carrying a .913 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.67 goals-against average (GAA). In fact, he lost only 10 games total and managed 8.7 goals saved above average (GSAA), an advanced metric for measuring the goals prevented by the goaltender compared with his peers.
Anyone who has followed Bobrovsky’s career knows that he tends to get extremely hot or extremely cold, often on a season-to-season basis. In fact, both of his Vezina Trophy seasons before (2012-13 and 2016-17) were preceded by dreadfully mediocre campaigns. Could it be time for Bobrovsky to become a world-beater again? The biggest obstacle might be his teammate, Spencer Knight. It’s fair to wonder whether he can start enough to win the top honors for a goaltender. But if he gets as hot as he can be, it will be tough to keep him out of the net.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Minnesota Wild
Current Odds: +3000
Can one of the most accomplished goalies of the last two decades turn back the clock one more time and add a second Vezina Trophy to his Hall of Fame career? He certainly will have the playing time. The Minnesota Wild traded Cam Talbot this summer and have only Filip Gustavsson, who has never played more than 18 NHL games in a season, to back up Fleury.
Fleury won his first Vezina Trophy just a season ago with the Vegas Golden Knights. Even at 37, he is still a very good goaltender. And it looks like he will have plenty of playing time. He is an understandable longshot, given his age and the uncertainty about the Wild’s prospects. But don’t write him off entirely.
Jordan Binnington – St. Louis Blues
Current Odds: +3000
Okay, okay, hear this out. Yes, Jordan Binnington had a rotten regular season last season — bad enough to lose his job to then-teammate Ville Husso. But he took charge of the net in the postseason, playing some of his best hockey since his rookie season, before the unfortunate and embarrassing circumstances that brought an end to his campaign. Yes, the five-game sample size is small, but there’s no doubting how good Binnington can be at his best. With Husso gone and only Thomas Greiss to back him up, it’s sink-or-swim time for the fifth-year backstop. With a good team around him and plenty of playing time, a Vezina Trophy isn’t out of the question.
Alexandar Georgiev – Colorado Avalanche
Current Odds: +3500
New faces in new places can often be a recipe for success. The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, but their accomplishment cost them Darcy Kuemper, who signed a hefty contract with the Washington Capitals. In his place, they acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers, who spent years behind Henrik Lundqvist and Shesterkin. Now the clear starter, Georgiev has a chance to justify the Avalanche’s faith in him.
the last two seasons have been rough for Georgiev, but there’s no doubting his potential. He is just 26, and obviously, General Manager of the Year Joe Sakic believes he can be the answer behind Colorado’s stout defense. Can the Bulgarian native mount an unlikely Vezina Trophy campaign? Any goalie playing on a top team certainly has a path, however narrow, that he can walk along.
Logan Thompson – Vegas Golden Knights
Current Odds: Unlisted
Now to go way off the board for the final pick. Second-year goalie Logan Thompson isn’t even listed on the current odds leaderboard. His teammate Robin Lehner was listed as a +2500 before news broke that he’d miss the season due to undergoing hip surgery. Now, Thompson stands as the probable number one of a group of goaltenders that also includes Laurent Brossoit and the newly acquired Adin Hill. But it will be Thompson’s net to lose, at least at first.
The undrafted 25-year-old played in 19 games with Lehner injured and did not look overwhelmed, despite being thrust into action. He had a .914 SV%, a 2.68 GAA, and 3.9 GSAA (an impressive number in a relatively short time frame). If he can pick up where he left off and help carry the Golden Knights back to playoff glory, he’ll certainly have some ardent supporters in the Vezina Trophy voting community. A good narrative never hurt anybody. And Thompson has the chance to be one of the stories of the season — if he can handle the newly-found workload.
Who Did We Miss?
Who do you think we missed? What goaltender is on your Vezina Trophy radar that hasn’t been discussed here? Let us know in the comments. Goaltending is a lonely job, and winning the Vezina Trophy is often an accomplishment of attrition. Whoever earns it this year will doubtlessly be well-deserving.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.