Who is Ondrej Pavelec?
In recent years, the New York Rangers and their fans have been spoiled by determined and well coached backup goaltenders. The most recent steady, consistent, supporters were Antti Raanta and Cam Talbot. Both of which have moved on to number one spots in Arizona and Edmonton, respectively.
On February 1st, 2015 Henrik Lundqvist suffered a neck injury from a high rising shot that changed Cam Talbot’s career. We all held our breath and looked through the fingers covering our faces while New York Rangers’ longtime medical trainer Jim Ramsay attended to Henrik. What happened in the coming weeks? Cam Talbot stepped out on the ice, into the spotlight, and into our hearts during The King’s absence. This performance directly led to a future trade placing him as the top dog in Edmonton.
In comes Annti Raanta. With a career-best .922 SV% and 16-8-2 record in the 2016-2017 regular season, the Rangers were able to use Raanta as a negotiating piece. The deal landed Stepan and Raanta as number one center and goaltender for the Arizona Coyotes, respectively, while the Rangers, in the long run, ended up with Tony DeAngelo and prospect Lias Andersson.
Ondrej the Anonymous?
Fast forward to July 1st, 2017. News had already been spreading that fan favorite Magnus Hellberg had signed with a KHL team and would not be backing up Lundqvist. Next, The Rangers sign free agent Ondrej Pavelec to a one year, $1.3 million deal. Immediately, half of the collective fan base said “who?” Pavelec, who had only played in eight NHL games in the 2016-2017 season was not a name many had heard of or were hoping to hear. Those with a good memory and/or quick search skills quickly recalled: “this is the guy that was the odd man out for Winnipeg, oh no.” Or, “Isn’t that the guy that passed out during a game?”
Who is Ondrej Pavelec? Where did he come from? And where is he going?
The 6’3,” 212 pound Czech Native, Ondrej Pavelec, was drafted in the second round, 41st overall, by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005. Pavelec did not jump right into the big leagues after being drafted. In both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons, Ondrej played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Here, he excelled as he recorded Goals Against Averages of 2.51 in the 05/06 season and 2.52 in the 06/07 season. These averages were best among all QMJHL goalies in both years earning him the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy, awarded to the goaltender with the best GAA, two years in a row.
Pavelec’s stellar QMJHL play landed him a full-time spot within the Atlanta Thrashers organization. He signed with them in 2007 and joined their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. During the 2007-2008 season, Pavelec played 52 games for the Wolves, going 33-16-3 with a 2.77 GAA and a .911 SV%. With these numbers, Pavelec led the Wolves to become the 07-08 Calder Trophy Champions.
The next season, he played twelve games for the Thrashers. By the 08-09 campaign, Pavelec was up to 42 games with the Thrashers and a regular NHL Goaltender. He played with the club through their transition to Winnipeg in 2011. In that 2011-2012 season, he played a career-high 68 games. Over the course of ten years, Ondrej Pavelec played 379 games for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization. Over that time, he averaged a .907 SV% and a 2.87 GAA. The 2016-2017 regular season found Pavelec in the mix with a struggling Jets team that was juggling three goaltenders. In the end, Pavelec was the odd man out, leading to him becoming available and eventually signing with the New York Rangers.
Back to the Future:
Now, one-third of the way through the 2017-2018 regular season and The New York Rangers Looking to Gain Ground in The Metro Division, their backup goalie and Benoit Allaire have some work to do. On Tuesday, with Henrik Lundqvist out with the flu, Pavelec was forced to make a surprise start. It was his first start since October 28th, but the Blueshirt backup made 41 saves and helped the Rangers Steal a Win in The Steel City.
This is important for a few reasons. No one can disagree that a 35-year-old Henrik Lundqvist needs a backup that can step up from time to time. Overplaying a goalie at any age can put a strain on a team’s season. The Rangers upcoming schedule is particularly dangerous and leaves plenty of opportunities for Pavelec to find his game. So far this season, the Rangers’ backup has only started four games. And, after the win in Pittsburgh, has only two wins with four losses in seven total games played. With a .899 SV% and a 3.45 GAA, it’s no wonder he’s played so little. His numbers do not necessarily warrant the trust AV had in either Talbot or Raanta in their time on Broadway. Pavelec’s play in net will be key to producing enough points for The New York Rangers to make the playoffs.
With 11 games in the final 21 days of the year, including two back to backs, and three Saturday/Sunday back to backs in a row to open the New Year, Pavelec better be ready. Without a doubt, he will see plenty of pucks in the coming months.
Is this a cause for concern? In my opinion, yes, and the Rangers think so too. The Rangers are in need of depth in the crease and I’m not sure signing Marek Mazanec is the answer either. And, with top prospect Igor Shestyorkin signed in the KHL through the summer of 2019, it will be a few seasons before we see him in New York.
— Forever Blueshirts Radio (@4B_Radio) September 26, 2017
The Hartford Wolf Pack’s Alexandar Georgiev, who backed up Pavelec in Pittsburgh, would be the next guess for a future backup position. But, with a 4-7-4 record, a 3.29 GAA and a .897 SV% so far this year, the future is not bright in Hartford, or on Broadway.
At 30-years-old, Ondrej Pavelec is the oldest backup Henrik has had since Martin Biron. And, his one-year contract will be up at the end of this season. I believe that the ten year veteran’s future as a member of the Rangers, and as an NHL level goaltender, will depend on his backup performance in the next 60 days. Are the New York Rangers hands tied in the crease? Do they have another option to back-up The King? Who will be the next Blueshirt Backup?