Igor Shesterkin has been highly touted since the New York Rangers drafted him. Now that he’s in North America, his time may be coming soon.
Before the New York Rangers selected Kappo Kakko with the second overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, one of the organization’s most prized prospects was Igor Shesterkin, who, before joining the Rangers organization in May, was playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
While playing amongst the best of the best in the KHL, Shesterkin shined between the pipes as he averaged 1.88 GAA in his five seasons with St. Petersburg, including his career-best 1.11 GAA in his previous season with the team in which he started 28 games.
Yes, the KHL is a much different place to play in terms of spectacle, both in fanbase and fame of the league, both nationally and internationally. While no arena in Russia can equate to the likes of Madison Square Garden, Shesterkin still played amongst heavy pressure in various playoff roles and against A-list players like Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov.
Now in North America, however, Shesterkin, despite a great deal of skill and experience he brings to the Rangers, needs to adjust himself and prepare for NHL-style games. This includes dealing with a robust New York media and fanbase. More importantly, he needs to learn to see the game through the mask on a smaller ice surface.
For those reasons mainly, Shesterkin will likely start his first North American season in Hartford with the WolfPack; but, if his time in the AHL is anything like his tenure in Russia, the Rangers will have a tough decision to make.
Shesterkin shining so close to home would be a tough call to ignore (as opposed to the other side of the planet). His play on the ice may serve as the driving point that would kickstart a new era and force the organization’s hand in some form.
Right now, the Rangers are carrying two great NHL caliber goaltenders. Future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist and last year’s pleasant surprise Alexander Georgiev are the core.
This begs the question, “What if Shesterkin is ready for the big leagues?” The Rangers eventual choice would depend on which direction the organization wants to go.
The Rangers want to continue on the route of getting younger obviously. So one answer would involve getting rid of Lundqvist, which is likely a non-starter. But, if the Rangers want to remain loyal to the man who has been so loyal to the team throughout the many highs and lows, the answer then is to move Georgiev to fill a need. Receiving a center in a trade would be most ideal.
The best option for Shesterkin would be to replace Georgiev as a backup.
Georgiev is equipped with talent and potential. There are plenty of teams in need of goaltending, and Georgiev would make a great option for the Arizona Coyotes, amongst a few other teams.
The Rangers have proven to the league in the past that they can cultivate great goaltenders in the NHL. Trading Georgiev, by this logic, is nothing short of a win. A trade allows more assets to be welcomed into the organization as well as allow Shesterkin to take on the role of apprentice to Lundqvist.
A lot of this boils down to how good Shesterkin is straight out the gate playing in North America. So far, he has been good and had a great showing with his fellow Rangers prospects in June.
If he continues on that track, though, Rangers fans should expect to see him in the big time soon.