On November 8th, the goal horn sounded to signify the New York Rangers win over the red-hot Florida Panthers. The goaltender who helped back up his team to the victory was Igor Shesterkin who made an impressive 42 saves. Shesterkin played great in this game and proved to the ice hockey world why he should be an early favourite to win the Vezina Trophy.
Reasons Why Igor Shesterkin’s Vezina Chances Are Going Up
Shesterkin’s Background Before His NHL Career
Prior to his draft year, Shesterkin had a decent amount of success in Russia. In the 2012-13 season, Shesterkin played in the MHL and put up a respectable .920 save percentage. Due to his playing, he was called to represent Russia at the U18 World Junior Championship. Although his team finished fourth, he showed his ability to elevate his game in important situations, finishing the tournament with a save percentage of .937 in six games. He was also named one of the top 3 players on his team.
In his draft year, Shesterkin only played nine games in the KHL. He mostly spent the season in the MHL and put up an impressive 14-5-4 record with a save percentage of .947. He performed well in the playoffs, backstopping his team to a championship. That off-season, 2014, the Rangers snagged him in the fourth round. The next season, Shesterkin bounced around the KHL, VHL and MHL, finding some success at each level. Consequently, he was chosen to represent Russia at the U20 World Junior Championship and helped his team win Silver.
2015-2019: The Years Leading Up To North America
He found success in the VHL the next season, finishing the season as one of the best goaltenders in the league. This was before he made the leap to consistently play in the KHL for the next three seasons. In that span, he won an Olympic Gold Medal and a KHL Championship. Due to this, he was considered one of the best goaltending prospects outside of the NHL. In 2019, he signed a two-year entry deal with the Rangers.
Shesterkin started his first professional season in North America with the Rangers AHL team, the Hartford Wolf Pack. In January, the Rangers called Shesterkin up, who was 15-4-3 at that time. His first NHL game was against the Colorado Avalanche, where he started and made 29 saves to help his team to a win. He played 11 more games in the NHL and finished the season with a .932 save percentage and a Goals Saved Above Expected of 3.1. He managed to do this while facing over 35 shots per 60 minutes at 5v5. Hence, Rangers fans were excited about the potential Shesterkin held and dubbed him the goalie of the franchise’s future.
2020-21 Season: His NHL Rookie Year
In the 2020-21 season, Shesterkin took over as the starting goaltender for the team and played 35 games. This was his first “official” season in the NHL, meaning he was still considered a rookie. During the season, he had two shutouts and those came in back-to-back games. Interestingly enough, they were both against the New Jersey Devils. As a result, he became the second rookie goalie in New York Rangers history to post consecutive shutouts. Throughout the season, he played decently, having a winning percentage of just over .500 and a Save Percentage of .916. Due to this, he finished fifth in Calder voting, which was just behind Ottawa Senators forward, Joshua Norris. He made a number of great saves during the season.
Here is a video on his top ten saves during the 2020-21 season:
2021-22 Season: The Year Igor Shesterkin Broke Out In The NHL
This season, 2021-22, Shesterkin is playing tremendously and is an early favourite to win the Vezina Trophy. He has the highest GSAx per 60 minutes among goalies with 16 games played. As GSAx shows the number of high-quality chances a goalie saves, this shows the high level of hockey Shesterkin has been playing. He has an impressive 22-5-2 record and a .932 Save Percentage. Shesterkin is also really consistent, having a Quality Start percentage of 72.4. This means that in those games, he had a Save Percentage above the league average. Furthermore, as of now, he only had one really bad start, which is when a goalie has a Save Percentage of .850, showing how Shesterkin rarely takes the night off.
The Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division, one of the most competitive divisions in the NHL. To put into context, the Rangers would be first in the Pacific Division, second in the Central Division and third in the Atlantic Division. However, the Rangers would not be in a spot they are without Shesterkin. The goaltender puts up fantastic numbers while playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the league. In terms of Expected Goals Against/60, the team is fifth (the higher the worse), at 5v5. This shows how impressive Shesterkin has been this season, establishing himself as a premier goalie in the NHL.
Igor Shesterkin Is Establishing Himself Among the League’s Best
For a few years, there were a number of fans calling Shesterkin the “heir of Henrik Lundqvist”. For many, Shesterkin has rightfully claimed that title, showcasing his talent in the NHL this season. He constantly puts up good numbers and gives his team a good opportunity to win each night. If he keeps it up, he will likely win the Vezina Trophy.
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