So it still may be a little too soon to start calling Igor Shesterkin the Czar, but no one can deny that no matter what team he is on; Shesterkin always dominates. Praised for his athleticism and poise it is no wonder that Shesterkin has been called the “heir” to Henrik Lundqvist since he was drafted in 2014.
From Russia to the AHL and now the NHL he continues to prove that he has shown his competitiveness. Shesterkin consistently gives his team the best chance to win every night.
Igor Shesterkin’s KHL dominance
After he was drafted in the Fourth Round at #118 overall by the New York Rangers in 2014, Shesterkin wound up on one of the top teams in the Russian league (KHL), the St. Petersburg SKA. That team was stacked with talent such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeny Dadonov, and now Ranger Artemi Panarin.
Shesterkin didn’t get into much action in his first year playing 6 games total. He was only 18 at the time and veteran goalies Mikko Koskinen and Alexander Salak took the reins.
It wasn’t until the 2016-2017 season that Shesterkin started to take over the role as #1 over Koskinen. In his first season as starter, Shesterkin posted an impressive stat line, playing 39 games total and boasting a record of 27-4-6 with a 1.64 GAA and a 0.937 SV% showing everyone around him and the Rangers that he had what it takes to become a legit goalie in the NHL.
While the next couple seasons he would never reach or surpass his games played, Shesterkin had a career year his final year in the KHL playing 28 games with a 24-4-0 record a whopping 1.11 GAA and a .953 SV%.
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, Shesterkin signed his Entry Level Contract (ELC) with the New York Rangers. The intent on coming over was to take the job from Rangers legendary goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Igor Shesterkin takes the AHL
There were a lot of questions and excitement going into the 2019-2020 season for the Czar. One of the burning questions surrounding Shesterkin’s entry into the NHL was how he would be able to adjust to North American style of play.
Another question that was a bit more exaggerated was if Shesterkin only posted those stats because he was on such a dominate team. While this wasn’t a huge concern, as Shesterkin earned those stats and was not “sheltered” over in Russia, it was still warranted for discussion.
The last question that the fans especially had was with the goalie situation going on in New York. While it was assumed Shesterkin would start in Hartford on the Rangers farm team (AHL), fans still wondered what would happen if Shesterkin got the call up with Lundqvist and Georgiev.
As training camp got underway and the AHL season began, Shesterkin started off proving his doubters wrong right away, even winning the goalie of the month award in October. Shesterkin would go on to play 25 games for Hartford and posting a 17-4-3 record and 1.90 GAA and .934 SV% and at the beginning of 2020 the Rangers called him up, causing questions to arise as the Rangers now had a 3 headed monster for goaltending.
Shesterkin shows NHL he’s the real deal
While Shesterkin only played 12 games in the regular season, it is more than fair to say he made an impact every night he played. Posting a record of 10-2 with a 2.52 GAA and .932 SV%, Shesterkin proved any doubters wrong yet again.
Igor showed the world he is as great, if not better, than advertised. In those contests, Shesterkin had 4 games where he made over 40 saves and had 9 games where he faced over 30 shots.
During February, Shesterkin and teammate Pavel Buchnevich were in a car accident, luckily with no major injuries, but they were sidelined for a while. Buchnevich came back before him, as Shesterkin suffered a non-displaced rib fracture. Shesterkin would not return until March 7 against the New Jersey Devils and had his worst game of his season looking a little rusty and obviously still recovering. He played one more game against the Dallas Stars, capturing the win before the season paused due to COVID-19.
When the season started back up in August and the Rangers slated to play the Carolina Hurricanes, Rangers fans were shocked when it was announced that Lundqvist would be the starter for the first game as Shesterkin had an undisclosed injury at the time.
Lundqvist would go on to play games 1 and 2 and looked great, even with the poor Rangers defense in front of him. It was discovered that Shesterkin’s injury was a groin injury and ended up recovering enough to play game 3 for the Rangers. Unfortunately for the Rangers even with Shesterkin in net the Hurricanes were victorious, winning the series and ending the Rangers 2019-2020 season.
Time for the Czar of New York
Since being drafted Shesterkin has been praised as one of the next great up and coming goalies and so far he has shown that he is all that’s been advertised. While it has been a small sample size, he has shown multiple times that he has the ability to steal a game and will be a cornerstone for the Rangers for years to come.
As we start looking into next season, with Lundqvist now gone, I expect Shesterkin to completely take over the role as the number one goalie for the team with Georgiev backing him up. I am curious to see how many games the Rangers plan on having him play, as it depends on how many games the NHL will have next year.
If they somehow do a full 82 game season, I expect that Shesterkin will play roughly 60% of the games and leaving the remaining 40% to Georgiev and any other goalies the Rangers may potentially call up during the season.
Shesterkin has never played more than 39 games in a single season so he has another question to answer. If past is prologue, he should answer it in the affirmative and more.
Random New York Rangers Fact for the Day
The New York Rangers were started by a promoter named Tex Rickard. Local newspapers began calling the new team “Tex’s Rangers”, a play on the famous police force known as the Texas Rangers. The team picked up on the nickname, and have been called “Rangers” ever since.