New York Rangers prospect goaltender Igor Shesterkin has had little trouble transitioning to the AHL. He may just force the team’s hand.
The New York Rangers saw first-hand how good Igor Shesterkin can be when he dominated the KHL for three seasons. When he signed his entry-level contract last May, the question of his playing on a smaller ice surface was a topic of discussion.
After an “adjustment period,” while playing with the Rangers prospect team at the Traverse city games, Shesterkin played very well in training camp. When he was sent down to the AHL prior to the start of the NHL season, which was no surprise, he accepted the challenge to improve with the poise that he showed throughout his international career.
Shesterkin wasted no time showing the AHL he can play the game at a very high level. Entering Friday night’s game against the Providence Bruins, he led the league with 1.65 goals-against average while posting a 7-1-1 record and .939 save percentage in his first nine games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
He earned Goaltender of the Month honors for October. Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch like what he has seen from the 23-year old so far this season.
“When there’s a mistake, it’s usually on the wall, and it gets to the middle of the ice quickly, Knoblauch said via Mike Ashmore of The Trentonian. “It gives goalies less time to get set. Those first couple weeks we thought maybe there was going to be an adjustment period, but it wasn’t much of one. He figured it out pretty quickly and I think that’s because of his hockey smarts. You hear about forwards and defensemen who see the game so well and they’re really smart hockey players while a lot of times goalies don’t get that credit. I think Shesterkin should, because he’s able to read plays, and that’s why he makes the game look as easy as he does.”
Shesterkin’s quick adaptation to North American hockey could force the Rangers into a decision with regards to their current backup Alexandar Georgiev.
Georgiev, in his second season with the Blueshirts, will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Rangers face of the franchise, Henrik Lundqvist, still has another season after this one with a full no-trade clause, contractually. A three goalie rotation is not something that would be beneficial to the team or the players.
Added to the mix of uncertainty is the Seattle NHL expansion draft which will be held at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season.
All of this is points to trade. The obvious choice is Georgiev as Shesterkin has been penciled in as the heir to replace Lundqvist as the clubs number one goalie.
The trading of a young goaltender like Georgiev is not an easy decision to make. He has served as a solid backup to Lundqvist, and though he has had some bad outings, the young goalie will only improve as his career grows.
The upside to trading him this season is two-fold. He could potentially allow the Rangers to acquire a current NHL player or fetch the team additional draft picks in next year’s NHL Entry Draft.
The second and more important fact is Shesterkin could back up Lundqvist the remainder of this season and split games more evenly next season as Henrik’s career comes to a probable end.
The 2021-2022 season could be the first time in the last 16 seasons that a goalie not named Henrik Lundqvist would be the team’s No. 1 goaltender.
Shesterkin is on the path to earn that spot between the pipes. It’s just a matter of when will he get the phone call that will change his life forever.