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Lundqvist’s Heir has Arrived

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The start of Shesterkin’s NHL career by the numbers

New York Rangers v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Russian rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin has taken the NHL by storm since his debut on Jan. 7, 2020 against the Colorado Avalanche. Shesterkin is playing as if no one told him the Rangers had little to no chance of making it to the playoffs. Instead, he’s playing like someone with something to prove while sharing the crease with the greatest NHL goalie of the last decade.

David Quinn named him his No. 1 goalie the day before Valentine’s Day as a result of his impressive start, telling the New York Post, “Right now, that is the situation we’re in, because of [Shesterkin’s] play, for sure.”

Since his debut, Shesterkin has earned a record of 8-1-0, posted a .938 save percentage, and a 2.25 GAA. Of course, there is a lot more to analyzing a goaltender — especially a rookie goaltender — than just looking at their stats. There is no position in hockey that flips the bird to the efforts of predicting success and development through data with more regularity than goaltending.

With that being said, Shesterkin’s numbers have been bonkers.

Through his first nine starts, Shesterkin has yet to allow more than three goals in a game and has never finished a game with a SV% below .900. And he’s the first goalie in NHL history to achieve that feat.

More importantly, his .937 even strength SV% is ranked eighth in the league since his debut and his .857 HD SV% at ES in that same window is level with Andrei Vasilevskiy, last year’s Vezina winner.

Since his debut, Shesterkin has faced 35.88 SA60 at even strength, which is fifth among all goaltenders to play at least 200 minutes of even strength hockey in that span. His 0.66 GSAA/60 at evens ranks sixth in the league and his 0.95 GSAA/60 in all situations rank sixth and second, respectively, in that same player pool. Remember, this is a goalie who made his professional debut in a North American rink on Oct. 5, 2019.

Before joining the Rangers, Shesterkin was dominating the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The .934 SV% he had through 1,455 minutes is hands-down the best performance by a Wolf Pack goalie since the 2005-06 season — which is as far back as the stats go on the AHL’s league site. The only Wolf Pack goalies even close to those numbers were David Leneveu — who posted a .924 SV% against an average of 24.3 SA/GP in 2007-08 — and a then 33-year-old Yann Danis, who had a .921 SV% back in 2014-15.

Shesterkin was undoubtedly Hartford’s most valuable player before being called up. Adam Huska has a .897 SV% since Jan. 8 and the Wolf Pack have gone in 8-6-3 in that window.

Back in October, Shayna Goldman of The Athletic wrote the following about Shesterkin’s brilliant start in Hartford:

Shesterkin has adapted to a smaller ice surface with ease and thrived through his start with the Rangers organization because of his skill and his calmness in net, even against some of the more challenging defensive breakdowns. Through his first 16 games, he’s already faced 30-plus shots eight times, and has fended off numerous quality chances against.

Hartford’s loss has been the Rangers’ gain. Back on Feb. 15, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic gave the Rangers a five percent chance of making the playoffs and projected them finishing with a record of 41-34-7. Since Shesterkin was called up, he has earned eight of the Rangers’ 13 wins in the team’s 13-6-0 run.

The final chapter of Henrik Lundqvist’s career with the Rangers is more uncertain than ever in part because of Shesterkin’s arrival.

As painful as that may be to some Rangers fans, it’s also a clear sign that the future of the goal crease is in the hands of another prodigy. Igor has arrived.

Data courtesy of ahltracker.com, naturalstattrick.com, theahl.com, and evolving-hockey.com.