Picking 2022–23 Vezina Trophy favourites based on goals saved above expected

With the 2023 NHL awards set to close out the final bits of business for the 2022–23 season as teams prepare for the next seasons with the 2023 NHL Draft and free agency, now’s a good time to take a look at how some awards and their finalists stack up against statistical measures. Of course, the Hart Trophy is pretty much expected to go to Connor McDavid for a third time with his 153-point campaign, the Norris Trophy is likely going to be Erik Karlsson‘s, paralleling a third-time win of the honours for himself too. However, among goaltenders, the Vezina Trophy is looking like it’ll go to a first-time winner.

With the finalists being named in mid-May as Connor Hellebuyck, Linus Ullmark, and Ilya Sorokin, it would only be a repeat win if it goes to Hellebuyck. He won it in 2019–20 aftering coming in second back in 2017–18. For Ullmark and Sorokin, this is both their first times as finalists.

That said, let’s take a look at goals saved above expected (GSAx) this season to see which of the three finalists have the best case for winning the trophy based on on-ice performances.

2022–23 GSAx from the regular season

Of course there’s a lot that goes into a Vezina nomination. Some general managers will look heavily at traditional stats like SV%, GAA, wins, or even total shutouts. Other newer-age votes will tend towards fancy stats like GSAx to help guide their voting. The long and short of a Vezina nomination is there’s no right or wrong way to do it and which stats each individual GM chooses to look at can sway the outcomes for who’s the winner and who’ll end up as the runners up.

As we’ve done throughout the season, we’ve visualised GSAx for every goaltender to see who trended up or down over time. While the regular season feels like forever ago, these are the final GSAx results at the conclusion of the regular season. The goalies are separated by division and the teams are ranked by total team GSAx. Each goalie’s individual GSAx is plotted regardless of their games played or time on ice. Stats are calculated using data from

Visualising GSAx

As seen in the four divisions, the runaway leader in GSAx was in fact Sorokin. He was stellar all season long and and played in the bulk of the New York Islanders’ games. He ended up posted a final GSAx total of 45.69—the next best goalie was Ullmark with 36.40. These two goalies clock in the first and second positions in the NHL, but it’s astounding that Sorokin had 25% more GSAx than the next best goalie.

The last finalist being Hellebuyck may have eked his way in over a Central Division rival in Juuse Saros. Saros had a better GSAx and faced more shots than Hellebuyck did, but it was Hellebuyck’s team that made it to the playoffs and that might have had something to do with it.

Here are some of the stats to complement the visualisations above with numbers to attach to the data points for the three finalists.

GoalieGames PlayedShots AgainstGSAx
Ilya Sorokin621,83945.69
Linus Ullmark491,45736.40
Connor Hellebuyck641,96432.94

The Vezina goes to the best goalie

It’s not uncontroversial to say the Vezina Trophy goes to the best goalie. However, with the mix of stats, scouting, media narratives, and personal biases, voting for the Vezina can go in any direction. There are multiple ways to quantify who the best outright goalie with what’s available for goalie evaluation with no true consensus. This makes the outcome a little more intriguing as the Vezina draws plenty of discourse on who deserves it the most and which goalies were snubbed. At the end of the day, it’s voted on by 32 people. The single opinion of one person may change the entire outcome.

If the Vezina just measures GSAx, then it’s Sorokin by a large mile. But throw in other stats like wins and overall team outcomes and it’s likely Ullmark’s. With all due respect to Hellebuyck, it should be a two-horse race at this point and it’ll simply come down to which measures are valued by more general managers making their votes.

May the best goalie win.

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