When Should The Rangers Call Up Igor Shesterkin?
The Rangers have seemingly put themselves in one of those situations where they have created a good problem. The over abundance of young, skilled defenseman that are blossoming in Hartford has given John Davidson and company a plethora of options to explore in building the team back to contending status. Coincidentally, they’ve also managed to do this with their goaltending situation.
New York boasts a nice goaltending corps past Henrik Lundqvist with players like Alexandar Georgiev, Tyler Wall, Olof Lindbom and of course, Igor Shesterkin. The 23-year-old from Moscow has turned all eyes to him in Hartford, excelling right off the bat and reinforcing the case for him to take over the throne once Henrik Lundqvist abdicates.
With that being said, when will the organization decide it’s the right time to call up Shesterkin to the big club?
Some would argue that he should be with the team at this moment, and frankly, it’s not an invalid take. In his first go around with Hartford, as this article is being published, he’s appeared in 13 games with a 2.05 GAA and a .927 SV%. Sporting a 7-3-3 record, those numbers put him first in GAA and fourth in SV% across the entire AHL. Previously, in the KHL, he sported a 1.11 GAA last season with .933 SV%, which was one of the better stat lines for goalies in that league.
He has been the rock on the back end in what has been a renaissance season for the Wolf Pack, who have played well enough to compete for a playoff spot. Shesterkin has shown he can lead a team with his natural skill and prowess in the net. He doesn’t look out of sorts and his game is shining through without problem. His play is eerily reminiscent of an early Henrik Lundqvist, who Igor has cited as an influence, and his top notch play is being noticed by teammates and the coaching staff.
The Rangers’ commitment to rebuilding their minor league system, and the influence of new coach Kris Knoblauch, are major factors in the team’s success, though folks in Hartford are quick to give Shesterkin a large part of the credit as well.
“He’s been absolutely outstanding,’’ Wolf Pack center Boo Nieves said of Shesterkin, in an interview with Newsday last week. “Every single game, he’s one of the best, if not the best, player out there. “I think the biggest thing he’s shown is, at the end of games, he’s made some huge saves,’’ Nieves said. “I can honestly probably name one in the end of every single game he’s played in that’s arguably given us the advantage to eventually win that game.’’Colin Stephenson – Newsday
“Probably the biggest thing with our success so far is goaltending,’’ Knoblauch said. “You rarely see a team have success without strong goaltending. And throughout this year, there’s not been a night where our goaltending hasn’t been good. Almost every night it’s been exceptional.’’
So when should the Rangers call him up then? All of this points to him earning his spot in the moment, don’t you think he should be here now?
No. Not yet.
He’s played exceptionally, but keeping him in Hartford for the remainder of the season is the best thing for his development. Having him stay in the AHL allows him to develop more confidence and familiarity with the North American game, which will allow him to grow as a player. Factor in that he will more than likely experience inevitable struggles in as a rookie in North America, it’s best for him to push through those in Hartford, rather than the NHL. Once he’s had a full season in North America, then without a doubt, he should be in camp next season ready to take the backup role behind Henrik Lundqvist.
There’s also the situation with Alexandar Georgiev. It wouldn’t be fair to him to strip him away from the team, considering that trading him now could fetch a return less than what you could possibly get at the deadline or the draft. You can read more about Georgiev’s situation here. It’s only right to keep him here for the remainder of the season, then find a home elsewhere for him to thrive, as Shesterkin’s play has merited a bigger look along with the fact that Henrik Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere while he’s still under contract with the Rangers.
The Rangers have given themselves a great opportunity to build for the future and the emergence of Igor Shesterkin in Hartford is reinforcing this, it’ll just have to wait until next season to see it blossom in New York and that isn’t a bad thing. Patience is key.