Juuse Saros a Strong Vezina Bet

Juuse Saros

Perhaps the most underrated netminder in hockey is Nashville Predators puck-stopper Juuse Saros, at least from a national attention standpoint. The oddsmakers at BetOnline certainly believe in the 27-year-old as they’ve priced him at +900 to win the Vezina Trophy this season, putting him behind only reigning Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin and (+285) and 2019 winner Andrei Vasilevskiy (+475).

Despite slipping to a 3.04 GAA and .905 Sv% after the All-Star break last season, Juuse Saros finished the season with a strong 2.64 GAA and .918 Sv% while starting a league-high 67 contests. It was his first season as a true No. 1 after Pekka Rinne’s retirement, leaving the notion that he endured some late-season fatigue wide open. Nonetheless, his first season as a workhorse netminder was undoubtedly a successful one.

Even with the third-shortest odds attached to him, there are reasons why his current price can provide significant value to bettors.

Strong Underlying Numbers Across the Board

Sure, Juuse Saros’ 2021-22 surface stats are really solid despite a second-half downturn. However, a look under the hood strengthens his 2023 Vezina bid.

From a personal standpoint, Juuse Saros’ 22.96 goals saved above average ranked fifth in the league. Not only that but his 20.86 GSAA mark from the 2020-21 campaign ranked third in the league at just 25 years of age. At 27 years of age, he owns a strong track record despite sharing the crease with Rinne in recent campaigns. Of course, his career 2.53 GAA and .920 Sv% across 223 appearances speak volumes.

From a team standpoint, the Predators got back to playing strong defensive hockey last season. They finished 17th in overall defense. However, we need to check under the hood for a second opinion

Nashville’s blueline finished the season seventh in expected goals against/60 at 5v5 as well as fourth in high-danger chances against/60 at 5v5, as per Natural Stat Trick. Limited quality scoring chances in front of a goaltender of Juuse Saros’ quality is going to keep the puck out of the Predators’ net, at least at even-strength action.

Voters Have Taken Notice

Saros’ name value might not be in line with some of the other premier NHL goaltenders, but voters have taken notice.

Despite appearing in just 36 games in the 2020-21 season, Juuse Saros managed to finish sixth in Vezina voting while also appearing in his first career All-Star Game. An All-Star again last season, Juuse Saros finished third in Vezina voting. A late-season slip and Shesterkin’s ridiculous season combined to limit Saros; Vezina ceiling.

There’s no doubt the Predators are going to lean heavily on their No. 1 goaltender again this season despite adding Kevin Lankinen this summer. He’s in for more than 60 starts again this time around and clearly the team’s most valuable player despite Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg’s presence.

With plenty of work ahead, an established track record, and Vezina votes in each of the last two seasons, Saros is a solid value look at +900 odds to win the 2023 Vezina Trophy.

 


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