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The Coyotes search for a starting goaltender

Goaltending continues to be a question mark for the Desert Dogs.

Minnesota Wild v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

The Arizona Coyotes went into the 2021-22 season expecting to be bad. They had a fire sale on their roster during the offseason, shipping out anyone who would recoup a second-round pick. The Coyotes traded two of their goaltenders and let the other walk as an unrestricted free agent to jumpstart an ambitious rebuild.

With that in mind, it’s not a surprise to see the Coyotes falter in net this season. They have yet to find a starter, and things have been rough in net for the Desert Dogs.

Carter Hutton

Going into the season, Carter Hutton was assumed to be the Coyotes’ de facto starter. He is the only net-minder with any significant NHL experience, having played 235 games since the 2012-13 season.

But Hutton has struggled in net with the Coyotes before ultimately going down with a lower-body injury. He has a 7.76 goals-against average in three games this season and a .741 save percentage, numbers that don’t inspire a lot of confidence moving forward.

Unfortunately, Hutton went down early with a lower-body injury. However, he does appear close to returning and is currently traveling with the Coyotes’ on their current road trip.

Karel Vejmelka

Next up for the Coyotes was Czech-rookie Karel Vejmelka. With Hutton down, Vejmelka has been the Coyotes’ default starting goaltender, having started in 12 of the Coyotes’ 15 games.

Vejmelka is playing in his first North American season, and at times he has looked stellar. We have seen Vejmelka stand on his head against the Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals, and Carolina Hurricanes, only for the team in front of him to fail to generate any offensive. Arizona’s offensive has been inconsistent at best this season, and it’s tough to win games when you can’t score.

Vejmelka also has to deal with a deadly combination of a team that takes a lot of penalties while having a terrible penalty kill. The Coyotes are the most penalized team in the league, 48 minutes more penalty minutes than the next highest team, and have the second-worst penalty kill in the league. Of course, your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer, but Vejmelka is not solely responsible for the Coyotes’ horrid penalty kill.

Unfortunately, possibly because of his relative inexperience, Vejmelka has looked highly shaky up at times and has given up goals that he should have saved. You can’t blame him for any of the Coyotes’ losses, but he doesn’t look like he is ready to be a full-time starter.

The turning point may have been the Coyotes’ win over the Seattle Kraken. Veggie was in net to start the game and gave up two goals in less than a minute. Then, the team elected to pull him in favor of Scott Wedgewood, who would give the Coyotes’ the first and so only goal of the season. He was pulled again when the Coyotes faced the Minnesota Wild and then gave up four goals in the Coyotes’ last game against the Predators.

Scott Wedgewood

The Coyotes re-acquired Wedgewood from the waiver wire, and while it is still early, he has looked good. He was in net for the Coyotes for their lone win of the season, was perfect in the final period of the Coyotes’ matchup against the Wild, and looked solid against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wedgewood only has one start, but given how Vejmelka has stumbled in some of his recent outings, we may see more of him in the future. Giving the Coyotes a win to prevent them from breaking the worst start to an NHL season has endeared him to fans looking for a goalie savior.

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Of the three goalies, Vejmelka is the only one who doesn’t need to clear waivers, which would make him the easiest to send down. But Hutton didn’t look great before he was hurt, and we haven’t had much of a look at Wedgewood. But, with Hutton set to come back soon, the Coyotes will need to decide how to move forward soon.