To mark the halfway point in the season, NHL.com is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, the award given annually to the goalie adjudged to be the best at his position as selected by the NHL general managers.
Darcy Kuemper hasn't played since Dec. 19 because of a lower-body injury, but the recognition continues for the Arizona Coyotes goalie.
The 29-year-old has not only been named to represent the Coyotes and the Pacific Division at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25, he is NHL.com's favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the League's top goalie, at the halfway point of the season.
Kuemper entered the calendar year second in the NHL in goals-against average (2.17) and tied for fourth in save percentage (.929). In 25 starts, he is 15-8-2 with two shutouts. Arizona (24-16-4) is second in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.
Video: ARI@CHI: Kuemper makes great diving save on Toews
"I've had some great play in front of me all year," Kuemper said. "The guys have been committed and we play with a lot of structure, which really helps me and makes my job easier. We're committed to winning and we want to keep building off that in the second half."
Each voter on NHL.com's 18-member panel submitted a top-five for the Vezina Trophy, in order. A point total was assigned to each vote. Kuemper received 12 first-place votes and finished ahead of Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets by 21 points in the poll. Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues finished third.
From Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2019, Kuemper won 37 games and had a 2.10 GAA, a .931 save percentage and seven shutouts.
"I thought from the calendar year, from Jan. 1 until he's been hurt for last couple of weeks, he was arguably the best in the League," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. "Him and a couple of other guys are right there. He definitely deserves to be an all-star, for sure."
Kuemper is week to week with his injury, but he said he's hoping to be ready for what would be his first appearance in the All-Star Game. He is the fourth goalie in Coyotes history to be selected, joining Nikolai Khabibulin (1998, 1999), Sean Burke (2001, 2002) and Mike Smith (2017).
"It's definitely a boost of confident to be named among the best players in the League and get a chance to go to the All-Star Game," Kuemper said. "It gives me some confidence and it'll really give me a push in the second half of the season."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Darcy Kuemper, Coyotes, 73 points (12 first-place votes); Connor Hellebuyck, Jets, 52 (two first-place votes); Jordan Binnington, Blues, 51 (three first-place votes); Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 37; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 19; Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 18; Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks, 8; Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins, 8 (one first-place vote); Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets, 1; Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders, 1; Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, 1; Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers, 1
NHL.com independent correspondent Alan Robinson contributed to this report