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2022-23 NHL betting preview: Two long-shot bets to win the Vezina Trophy

Two young netminders are worth a bet at long odds to win the Vezina Trophy

Spencer Knight of the Florida Panthers warms up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 27, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Spencer Knight of the Florida Panthers warms up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 27, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)Read moreClaus Andersen / Getty Images

In some NHL awards markets, like the Norris Trophy or the Rocket Richard Trophy, it’s hard to make a case to go against the chalk. But in others, like betting who will win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, it makes sense to completely bypass the top of the board and throw some beer money on a couple of longshots.

That’s because goaltending is fickle and incredibly tough to project. While we can pretty safely assume that elite netminders like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin and Juuse Saros will once again be among the best in their class this season, it’s not a lock. We’ve seen top goaltenders like John Gibson and Sergei Bobrovsky go from top of the ladder one season to below average the next.

In fact, you only need to go back to last year when two of the top three goalies in the Vezina voting from the previous season, winner Marc-Andre Fleury and third-place finisher Philipp Grubauer, fell off. Fleury finished 2021-22 with a .908 save percentage and a -11.3 Goals Saved Above Expected in 45 games in 2021-22, while Grubauer was perhaps the worst goalie in the league with an .891 save percentage and -31.5 GSAx in 55 contests.

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That kind of variance means that bettors should try and avoid betting the favorites in the Vezina market, even if right now it looks like a two-horse race between Shesterkin (+300) and Vasilevskiy (+400) at BetMGM.

With that in mind, here are two longshots worth a bet to win the Vezina in 2022-23:

Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers (+15000, BetMGM)

It’s been a weird start to life in the NHL for Spencer Knight. The Panthers drafted Knight with the No. 15 pick in the 2019 Draft, but then signed Bobrovsky to a monster contract two weeks later. Even though his path to the starting gig was seemingly blocked, the Panthers made room for Knight behind Bobrovsky and wanted him to develop in a No. 2 role for the beginning of his career. That seemed like a weird plan, but it did start to pay some dividends as Knight bounced back from a rough first half with a stellar second half in 2021-22.

The Darien, Conn. native posted a .917 SV% and +5.62 GSAx over his last 15 appearances for the Panthers last season and if he can carry over that form to 2022-23, he should be able to wrestle the starting gig from Bobrovsky, especially since the Panthers signed Knight to a three-year extension this offseason.

The Panthers have their flaws, but they’re projected as one of the Stanley Cup favorites, so if Knight is the starting netminder on a good team, there’s a path to success here at a huge number.

» READ MORE: NHL futures: Will the Philadelphia Flyers have the worst record in the NHL?

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (+5000, BetMGM)

Another young goalie who looks primed to make a leap is Jeremy Swayman of the Boston Bruins.

As a rookie, Swayman posted a .914 save percentage and a +4.4 GSAx in 41 games. Those aren’t eye-popping metrics, but they’re quite encouraging for a first-year goaltender on a strong team.

While goaltending performances from season to season are rarely linear, Swayman does seem like he has the make-up and skillset to become a legitimate No. 1 goaltender as soon as next season.

It also helps that Swayman plays behind a terrific defense that has spent the last half-decade mastering the art of making life easy on its goaltender.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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