Coppola’s Column: Vezina standings in a league of unprecedented offensive production 

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) celebrates with center Ryan Johansen (92) after their win over the Calgary Flames in an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Zaleski/AP Photo.

We’ve seen a lot of surprises this season in the NHL, but none more so than with the goalkeeping position. The pressure on defenses and their netminder has only grown in recent years, with most of the separation among top teams being decided by whether or not they have a premium goalie. With that said, here is my list of the top five goalminders so far this season. 

5. Juuse Saros 

Saros has not been talked about enough this season. Most people focus on the same top four, while giving the fifth spot to Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Andrei Vasilevskiy. But Saros has, for the most part, had a better season. Saros tops Vasilevskiy and the rest of the competition in save percentage, quality save percentage, goals saved above average, quality starts, wins and more at the time of writing this. He’s been in the conversation the last two years as well, though not getting higher than third last season. The 27-year-old is in his eighth season, and that experience has paved the way for consistency on a year to year basis, though he needs to find that continuity this season if he wants to stay in this race. 

4.  Ilya Sorokin 

Sorokin has been championed by many hockey analytics world this season. There is a valid reason why: he tends to be the most consistent choice, and is a big recognizable name between the pipes. Similar to our third-place goalie, Sorokin is in his third season, and his second as a starter. He came in sixth last season in Vezina voting, and will be making a further jump this season. Despite goaltending numbers dropping dramatically this season, Sorokin still boasts a similar stat line and improved team success. Just a week ago he likely would’ve ranked second, had it not been for how competitive the field has become. 

3. Jake Oettinger 

The youngest netminder on the list, Oettinger is certainly making a name for himself this season. The Minnesota native is in his third season with the Dallas Stars, second as primary starter, and has taken the next step up. He has been in the conversation for most of the season, and has likely secured a spot for the remainder of the season barring anything surprising. Just like how our number one and two spots have remained in the top two for significant statistics respectively, Oettinger has secured third in most categories as well. He has a shot to climb even farther, but that will depend on how the Stars’ defiant defense holds up down the stretch. 

2. Connor Hellebuyck 

Numbers two through four on this list are difficult to place, considering how they all are roughly around the same level. We can likely expect plenty of movement from the trio as we get close to the conclusion of the season. Hellebuyck presents the most complete picture at the moment, as well as boasting impressive consistency this season. He remains second in most relevant categories, including wins, shut outs, save percentage, etc. Hellebuyck is having the best season of his career, outperforming his Vezina-winning season back in 2020. With the Jets looking to go deep in the playoffs this year, he will need to continue this production to give them a chance. 

1.Linus Ullmark 

It’s virtually impossible to not place Ullmark at the number one spot here. He’s arguably the best player on the best team in the league, one that is a heavy favorite to take home the cup. The Bruins have surprised this season, and a big reason is Ullmark. There is a question as to how much the quality of the team improves his play, especially considering how he hasn’t really sniffed this success prior to this last year or in Buffalo. Regardless, it’s hard to overlook the man who leads the league in wins, save percentage, goals against average and goals saved above average. You can’t expect this play to slow either, considering how he’s improved as the season has progressed. But if he keeps his play around this level for the rest of the season — and he likely will — he’s almost a lock to take home the hardware. 

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