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Vejmelka vs. Ingram: Who will be the Coyotes starting goalie?

© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the Arizona Coyotes regular season just a few days away, there is a bit of a dilemma of who will be the starting goalie: Connor Ingram or Karel Vejmelka?

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This topic comes up because while both had losing records last year, the duo played fairly well as a tandem.

Even though Vejmelka got a bulk of the games last year with 50, the play by Ingram towards the end of last season and this past preseason could see more of a 50/50 split than some expect.

However, if Coyotes head coach André Tourigny decides that the team will have a starter and a backup for the 2023-24 season, who is more likely to takeover the crease?

Karel Vejmelka

After being drafted by the Nashville Predators with the 146th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Vejmelka played five seasons in the Czech Extraliga with HC Kometa Brna.

When he finished his last season in 2020-21, the Predators didn’t sign him to a contract, so Vejmelka struck a 1-year deal with Arizona as a free agent.

Since coming from Czechia, he instantly became the starting goalie for the Coyotes.

Playing in 52 games in 2021-22, Vejmelka started in 49 and had a 13-32-3 record with a .898 save percentage and 3.68 goals-against-average.

Keep in mind, the team has been in a rebuild the past few years and the goalie’s numbers weren’t gonna look pretty.

Last season, Vejmelka started 49 out of 50 games he played and put up a 18-24-6 record with a .900 save percentage and 3.44 GAA.

For the most part, Vejmelka kept the team in games with the occasional blowout loss happening.

With the experience he has had since playing a majority of games, Vejmelka should be the starting goalie to begin the season.

Additionally, a much-improved roster can boost the stats of Vejmelka’s because of better defensemen in-front of him.

Players like Matt Dumba, Sean Durzi and Troy Stecher will be new additions from the offseason that will limit dangerous scoring chances from the opposition.

However, the amount of games in which Vejmelka plays could lower because of someone else who is contending for the same role.

Connor Ingram

As for Ingram, his play in the preseason, as well as last year, gives him an argument that he should play more games.

Like Vejmelka, Ingram was drafted, but never played for the team who he was selected by.

With the 88th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Ingram.

After splitting time in the minors in the AHL and ECHL, Ingram too began in the NHL two years ago like Vejmelka.

In 2019, the Predators traded a seventh round pick in the 2021 draft to Tampa for Ingram.

It wasn’t until the 2021-22 season where Ingram would make his debut with Nashville.

Going into his third season in the pro’s, Ingram has quietly had a good start to his career.

Ingram played three games for the Predators and a 1-2 record with the franchise.

Then, Ingram was on the move again as the Coyotes claimed him off waivers in 2022.

Last season, he started 26 out of 27 games he played with the ‘Yotes and obtained a 6-13-8 record with a .907 save percentage and 3.37 goals-against-average.

During preseason, both Ingram and Vejmelka played three games apiece, with Ingram being 2-1 and Vejmelka was 1-2.

In the loss for Ingram, he had no offensive help and made huge saves in the 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sept. 29.

This is not saying Ingram will be the starter all of a sudden because Vejmelka has had the majority of the crease the past two seasons, but Ingram should be able to play about half of the games on the schedule, if needed.

If Vejmelka gets off to a rocky start, however, more and more opportunities from Ingram will come and we may see a new Coyotes starter before seasons end.

Coyotes announce roster for the regular season opener

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Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes, Cardinals and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his new X account @AlecCipollini

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