Igor Shesterkin has taken his first steps towards Rangers goaltending greatness
In January of 2019, with the impending and imminent NHL arrival of the Russian wunderkind, Igor Shesterkin, we took a dive into the New York Rangers goaltender lineage. We profiled some of the esteemed net-minders who heroically patrolled the Blueshirt crease from the birth of the franchise in 1926 to today. First, on the corner of 8th Avenue and 50th Street with the likes of Lester Patrick, Dave Kerr, Chuck Rayner and “Gump” Worsley to the Garden’s current midtown location 17 blocks south where Eddie Giacomin, John Davidson, John Vanbiesbrouck. Mike Richter and Henrik Lundqvist all wrote their respective stories of success and notched their places in Ranger history.
While, admittedly, it has been just seven games into his embryonic NHL career, we can say with high levels of confidence that the 24-year-old native of Moscow has lived up to the lofty expectations set for him over these last few years. After all. Shesterkin’s five year KHL stat line playing for St Petersburg SKA, was normally reserved for fictitious goalies in online video games. There is nothing the least bit apocryphal about #31’s play between the pipes, however.
Shesterkin left his native Russia and crossed the pond in 2019 to begin his North American professional career playing in Hartford for the Wolf Pack and continued his uncanny dominance. Smaller rink size, language barriers, changes in currency, a general unfamiliarity of surroundings, none of those potential concerns seem to phase Shesterkin. He is as cool as a plate of borscht and as calm as a shot of vodka. He is positionally sound and his rebound control is exquisite. His catching glove is lightning quick and his slick stick-handling ability is a far cry from the struggles of his immediate predecessors.
Seven games may win you a playoff series but a successful NHL career, it does not. Rangerstown may need to pump the breaks just a bit on the man the Garden Faithful has nicknamed “The Czar” and allow him to continue his apprenticeship, growth and maturity. With team management looking for a quick but cerebral solution to the three-headed monster currently in goal, Ranger fans can sleep well at night knowing that Shesterkin is in Gotham, in goal, playing at a somewhat surprisingly high level. Even the most optimistic Blueshirt enthusiast could not have foreseen Igor’s meteoric rise to become head coach David Quinn’s most trusted goalie. Only time will tell whether or not Shesterkin will join my list of Ranger greats in goal and be the next great name on the Blueshirts goaltender lineage.
As for now, with the record breaking and eventual Hall-of-Fame Ranger career of Henrik Lundqvist seemingly winding down, Shesterkin is poised and well-equipped to receive the proverbial torch and carry on the pedigree.