Karel Vejmelka has been having a great start to the season in Arizona. Following his loss against the Metropolitan leading New Jersey Devils he has now gone 5-4-1 with a 3.16 goals against and .910 save percentage. Prior to the Devils game Vejmelka had a massive shutout against the New York Islanders earlier in the week. Vejmelka’s 24-save performance against the Islanders was only the 2nd shutout of his short NHL career.
The Czech goalie was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators but never played a game for the Predators. He put up dominant numbers while playing in the Czech Extraliga. Once the Coyotes signed Vejmelka to an NHL contract in the Spring of 2021 he never looked back.
Vejmelka’s first season in the NHL was rough at times because the Coyotes had completely stripped down their roster. Vejmelka may have started his NHL career slow but he has kicked his play into overdrive since starting his second NHL season with the Arizona Coyotes. Vejmelka’s strong goaltending has the rebuilding Coyotes in a playoff spot to start the season.
The big question- Is Vejmelka just a stop-gap at goalie or is he the future of the Coyotes crease? He is only 26 years old which is on the younger side for NHL starting goalies. Many goalies do not enter their primes until their late 20s. Vejmelka is poised for a breakout campaign if the defense in front of him can limit the shot attempts. Both J.J. Moser & Juuso Valimaki have shown some promise in that department.
Vejmelka has been a hawk against quality scoring chances this year too & has managed to become one of the leaders in the “Goals Saved Above Expected” category.
Vejmelka does not appear to have much competition in Arizona either. The Coyotes backup goalie Connor Ingram has had a less than stellar start to his Coyotes tenure. He doesn’t look like he will be challenging Vejmelka for playing time any time soon. Vejmelka has entrenched himself as the best goalie in the Coyotes organization at the moment.
The Coyotes will likely be rebuilding for a few more seasons before they are realistically playoff contenders but Vejmelka’s play might get them into playoff contention a lot sooner. The Coyotes have been in need of a goalie to take complete control of the crease since Darcy Kuemper was traded prior to the start of the 2021/22 season. Karel Vejmelka might just be the man for the job.