The current NHL season is in full swing, and the Coyotes have been left behind, it seems, as the team currently sits in last place with a record of 0-10-1. While many have written this season off, the Coyotes are still very much hungry to win and prove people wrong. One of those people is a 25-year-old rookie goalie sensation nicknamed Veggie, who’s proving his case for a spot on Team Czech Republic’s roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Karel Vejmelka came to Arizona this offseason as a complete stranger to everyone else. After originally being drafted in the fifth round in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, the young netminder would spend the next six years of his life and career solely in the Czech Republic, never once setting foot in North America.
The Coyotes would enter this offseason in full rebuild mode and take a chance on Vejmelka. While many expected him to play the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Tucson Roadrunners, splitting time with Ivan Provestov, that’s not what he had in mind.
Rise to Success
Vejmelka would surprise everyone when it was announced that he made the final 23 man roster, beating out expected backup Josef Korenar. His path to eventually turning into the starting goalie, with Carter Hutton currently out with an injury, came as a shock, but it was a much-needed positive for a struggling Coyotes team.
At the time of this writing, Vejmelka holds a record of 0-7-1 in nine games played. While those numbers certainly suggest a struggling goalie, that’s quite the opposite in his case. In nine games played, the 25-year-old Czech has shined, posting a 2.60 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He’s faced 263 shots and saved 242 of them, all while adding a highlight reel of spectacular saves.
Making a Case for an Olympic Spot
One may ask themselves after looking at Vejmelka’s stats, does he deserve a spot on Team Czech Republic’s roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics? Based off how well the rookie goalie has played on a winless team so far in his first-ever season in North America, it’d be hard not to say that team Czech Republic isn’t at least keeping tabs on his play so far.
In comparison to Frederik Andersen, who’s played eight games for the Hurricanes so far and has compiled a save percentage of .949, putting him in second place in save percentage leaders, Vejmelka falls only 15 spots behind him in 17th place, all while playing for a team that has scored 14 total goals and has yet to win a game.
Final Say So
While no one can say for sure if Vejmelka will be on Czech Republic’s national team for the 2022 Winter Olympics, it’s no secret that he’s made his case for a consideration on the team’s olympic roster. While he’s yet to pick up his first career NHL win, he’s a bright young player that could wind up finding himself a part of the team’s long-term plans.
He plays with composure and calmness that is hard to find at times in a rookie goaltender. He gives his team a chance to win every game, and he continues to grow at the same time. With the Coyotes recently picking up former goalie Scott Wedgewood with Hutton out, the hope is to give Vejmelka some rest. Nevertheless, expect this kid to play a lot more this season, as he very well may account for the majority of his team’s very few wins. And don’t be surprised if he finds his way onto Czech’s final roster for the Olympics.
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Mr. Evans is originally from Greenville, SC where he currently resides. Mr. Evans has been involved in hockey for the past 16 years now, following the Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues. During his free time, Mr. Evans enjoys spending time with his family and girlfriend as well as being up in the mountains or taking pictures. Prior to joining The Hockey Writers, Mr. Evans previously worked for The Puck Authority, covering the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. You can find Mr. Evans on Twitter at @HaynesPEvans.