For the past 15 seasons, Henrik Lundqvist has proved to be nothing short of legendary for the Blueshirts. However, as we know, all good things come to an end. Lucky enough for us, there seems to already be an heir to the Kings throne, Igor Shesterkin.
Shesterkin's numbers speak for themselves. In four years in the KHL, Igor was named an All-Star in two and won best GAA and SV% in the other two. He is also 2nd in All-time GAA in the KHL with a 1.68 GAA and ranks 3rd All-time in SV% with a 0.935! He also has only lost 19 professional hockey games in his entire 117 game career, before coming to North America.
Many saw Igor’s early success as just that. They did not believe that his stellar play would translate to the North American game. Steve Silverman with Bleacher Report graded the Rangers selection of Shesterkin, in the 2014 Draft, a “C+” stating “The Rangers are taking a chance that Igor Shestyorkin will continue to put impressive numbers on the board”. Boy were the doubters wrong. After signing his entry level deal last year, Igor put up a GAA of 1.90 and a SV% of 0.934 and became an AHL All-Star in only 25 games!
In the Rangers situation at the time and Igor’s stellar play in the AHL it was evident that he was ready for an NHL call up. The Rangers did want to fight for a playoff spot, but at this point in the season they were looking to test out their new goaltender and see what he can bring to the NHL level. With that being the case, and Lundqvist’s play clearly deteriorating, it only made sense to call up Igor. In the beginning, the call up was only supposed to last a couple of games, but after stringing together a couple of wins, the Rangers decided to keep Igor and roll with a three goalie roster.
As it turns out, there was no stopping Igor on the NHL level either! In his 12 games with the Rangers, Igor posted a record of 10-2-0 with a GAA of 2.52 and a SV% of 0.932, similar to his career totals in the KHL.
After watching Shesterkin play myself, it is extremely evident that he has superb reflexes and insane lateral movement. He has very quick feet and very good lower-body strength which allows him to slide into amazing desperation saves. However he does have some weaknesses. Including the art of percentages. Igor does have a good frame but he is not very good at using it to his advantage. He needs to learn how to make himself bigger in his net and use his positioning to help him in situations when you can't rely on your reflexes. This is why you see shots through heavy traffic turn into goals. I believe this can be fixed though. We have one of the greatest goaltending coaches, Benoit Allaire, who has essentially made every single goalie that entered our roster for the past 5-10 years an NHL starter. Look at Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, Alexander Georgiev, and even Ondrej Pavelec. With Allaire’s greatest achievement obviously, being Henrik Lundqvist. My point here is that the small weaknesses that Shesterkin does possess can be easily fixed with training from Allaire and All-time great Lundqvist. Working alongside these minds will help propel the rightful heir, Igor Shesterkin to his King's throne.