Jack Campbell is the unquestioned starter for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and his performances this season are deserving of Vezina Trophy consideration.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a big question to answer at the goaltender position when the COVID-shortened 2021 season began, but after Frederik Andersen struggled with injuries and Jack Campbell stepped up, those have been erased in the short term.
After establishing himself as a starting goaltender with the Leafs, even setting an NHL record in consecutive victories to start a season, Campbell entered the 2021/22 campaign with some competition from Petr Mrázek.
Mrázek has had his own struggles with health and Campbell has played the majority of games, even being the first goaltender in the entire NHL to reach 16 games played this season.
There are 29 goalies that have played at least ten games in the league, and Campbell is currently standing out above the entire group – having played the most games and even sporting the best goals against average (1.66) and the best save percentage (.944) amongst his peers.
His efforts have helped guide the Leafs to a 10-4-1 record in games attributed to him, even during stretches where the team’s stars were not at the top of their game and a strong effort between the pipes was needed to tip the scales.
While there is a long chunk of the season remaining, with just about 25% of the campaign having been played to date, Campbell’s performances at this early stage should see him come up in Vezina Trophy conversations moving forward.
The 29-year-old has taken some time to fully establish himself as a starting-quality goaltender in the NHL, but since joining the Leafs from the Los Angeles Kings, he has shown the world that he can live up to the lofty expectation that were placed on him from his draft day.
Campbell was the 11th selection in the 2010 Draft by the Dallas Stars and it took until the 2018/19 season before the Port Huron, Michigan native played more than five NHL games in a campaign.
Since being drafted, up until he was traded to the Leafs in February 2020, Campbell had featured in 58 regular season games and had never posted a winning record. Since that trade, however, Campbell is now just 13 games shy of that total, but has posted a winning record in each campaign with the blue and white.
His Leafs career record currently stands at 30-9-4 while his time with the Kings bore a 20-24-5 record and his one-game stint with the Stars in October 2013 ended 6-3 in favour of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not had a goaltender win the Vezina Trophy since legends Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk both shared the award during the 1964/65 season, when the award was more akin to the modern day William M. Jennings Trophy.
While there is still a lot of hockey left to be played, if Campbell continues to play at the level he has demonstrated since the start of last season, he should certainly be a legitimate candidate for the Vezina – especially given his overall value to the Leafs’ success.