Wolf Pack Watch: Shesterkin Shines, Hartford Back on Top

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Hartford is back on top in the standings once again as the group has completed a little more than one-third of their season. The Wolf Pack have three games on tap before going on their Christmas break. The season continues to go well for Hartford despite facing adversity from time-to-time.

Igor Shesterkin Dominant

The 23-year-old prospect continues to play magnificently in Hartford. Shesterkin played in two straight games last week, winning both contests. The goalie has won his last four starts and is arguably the best goalie in the American Hockey League today.

Shesterkin ranks first in the league in goals-against-average (1.81), third in save percentage (0.936), sixth for minutes played (1029:14), and eighth for shots faced (484 in 17 games). He has two shutouts so far along with one assist.

The prospect is one of the main reasons that Hartford ranks atop the Atlantic Division. Shesterkin continues to make fantastic saves, keeping the team in numerous games, and being one of the best goalies to face in the league. Scoring on Shesterkin is not an easy task.

Shesterkin faced 30 shots last Wednesday and 26 shots last Friday. The prospect pitched a shutout against Lehigh Valley on Friday for Hartford’s 900th franchise win.

Vitali Kravtsov Returns

The 19-year-old prospect returns with a clean slate to Hartford after going overseas earlier in the season.

Prior to rejoining Hartford, Kratsov played in 11 games recording two goals and an assist with a +/- rating of -4 with the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk. It will be interesting to see how he plays in the three games this week for the Wolf Pack. In his first appearances with Hartford, he struggled mightily, having played in five games recording an assist with a +/- rating of -2

Kravtsov’s development is still in the early stages of his career. If he struggles again, there is no need to worry as he continues adjusting to the style of play in the AHL and the rink size. The prospect needs confidence in his play and the Rangers management must manage him delicately. The forward has a lot of development to do. He is expected to debut on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Checkers.

Standings Update

Hartford is first in the Atlantic Division, going 16-5-2-5 for 39 points. The Wolf Pack own the tiebreaker against the Providence Bruins, who also have 39 points in the division. The Bruins played two more games than Hartford entering the week and the Wolf Pack lead the season series against Providence.

The second-place Bruins are 18-9-1-2 with a .650 point percentage (Hartford is .696). The Hershey Bears are 14-9-2-3 for 33 points good enough for third in the division. The Wolf Pack has a six-point lead from third place, which is great to see.

Captain Steven Fogarty Leading the Way

Check out Greg Markiewicz’s piece on Hartford’s top veteran of the season here.

One-Timers

  • Nick Jones recorded his first two-goal game of the season on Friday against Lehigh Valley. The rookie has points in two of the last three games (3G, A).
  • Vinni Lettieri leads the team in points (22). The forward has points in three of the last four games (3G, A). Through 28 games, Lettieri has 10 goals and 12 assists.
  • Joey Keane ranks fourth among defensemen in the league for points (19). The prospect ranks 2nd among rookie defensemen in the league for points as well. Keane has 25 points (6G, 19A) through 27 games, and has recorded a point in seven of the last nine contests.
  • Cristoval “Boo” Nieves has points in five of the last seven games. The forward has a goal and four assists for five points.
  • Tim Gettinger has points in three of the last four games (G, 3A).
  • Lias Andersson has been held without a point in his last four games since his three-point outing last Saturday against Binghamton.

Ville Meskanen Leaves Organization

Meskanen terminated his contract last week to play overseas. The forward spent his rookie season in Hartford, playing in 70 games and recording 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points.

Prior to the termination of his contract, Meskanen was pushed down in the depth charts in Hartford as he played in 20 games with the team this season. He registered four assists with a +/- rating of -2. Meskanen was often scratched as he was utilized as an extra forward on the roster.

Meskanen had a good rookie year and had potential. However, since the Rangers bolstered their organizational depth and signed higher-end prospects, Meskanen was unable to outperform the new up and coming prospects in the system.

Best of luck to Ville Meskanen in his future endeavors.

Roster Moves

  • Shawn McBride was assigned to the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL on December 10th. McBride participated in two games.
  • Ryan Gropp was called up to Hartford on December 11th, a day before Meskanen’s contract was terminated.
  • Ville Meskanen was officially terminated on December 12th.
  • Vitali Kravtsov was officially signed to Hartford on December 13th.

Upcoming Games

Tuesday, December 17th vs Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) at 7 pm, Bojangles’ Coliseum

  • This is the second of eight meetings in the season series. Hartford won the first meeting on October 5th by the score of 5-3.
  • Charlotte enters the week with a record of 11-12-3 for 25 points. That ranks them seventh in the Atlantic Division. The Checkers are 5-5 in their last 10 outings.
  • Defenseman Jake Bean leads the Checkers in scoring. Carolina’s prospect has 5 goals, 12 assists for 17 points. Morgan Geekie leads the forwards in points with 16 (7G, 9A).
  • Hartford has not won a game in franchise history in Charlotte. The Pack could break the stat Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Listen – ESPN Charlotte. Watch – AHLTV.

Wednesday, December 18th vs Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) at 7 pm, Bojangles’ Coliseum

  • The third of eight meetings in the season series.
  • After the completion of the third game in the season series, the next game against Charlotte will be at the XL Center on January 10th.
  • The last trip to Charlotte this season will be in February as Hartford will play against them on February 7th and 8th.
  • Listen – ESPN Charlotte. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, December 21st vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7 pm, XL Center

  • This is the fifth of ten meetings in the season series against Providence. Hartford leads the season series 3-0-0-1. The lone loss was in the shootout on November 15th.
  • The Bruins enter the week tied with Hartford for points in the Atlantic Division (39).
  • The Bruins enter the week winning two straight and are 8-2 in their last ten outings.
  • Former Rangers forward Paul Carey and rookie Jack Studnicka lead Providence offensively. Both forwards are tied for points (24). Carey ranks 12th in the league for points while Studnicka ranks 14th. Among AHL rookie forwards, Studnicka ranks second in points.
    • Carey: 14 goals, 10 assists.
    • Studnicka: 12 goals, 12 assists.
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.
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