The Rookie Seasons of Lundqvist, Georgiev, and Shesterkin

A brief look at the three Rangers goalies debuts and rookie seasons

After the New York Rangers 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, Igor Shesterkin became the second goaltender in Blueshirts’ history to earn a win in four of his first five games.

With the three goalie rotation situation still underway, and Shesterkin playing well in his first North American season, let’s dive into the rookie seasons of each goaltender, Shesterkin Alexandar Georgiev, and Henrik Lundqvist.

It is only right to begin with Lundqvist, who was selected by the Rangers in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. For the five years leading up to his NHL debut, Lundqvist became the top goaltender in Sweden while playing for Frolunda in the Swedish Junior League. He won the Honken Trophy in three consecutive years and won a championship with Frolunda in 2003. During his final season with Frolunda, Lundqvist broke four records: most single season shutouts (six), longest shutout streak of 172.29 minutes, the highest save percentage at .962%, and the lowest playoff goals-against average at 1.05. He also won league MVP and players’ choice MVP.

Lundqvist made his NHL debut with the Rangers on October 8, 2005 due to the starting goalie at the time, Kevin Weekes, being injured. Lundqvist’s debut resulted in an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils at 23 years-old. As he suited up for the game, his teammate and camp roommate, Jaromir Jagr, told him to enjoy it and to have fun. In a NHL interview looking fourteen years back on the debut game, Lundqvist described himself as “nervous” for what was “a very cool moment – a surreal moment.”

The rookie had his first win five days later against the Devils and his first NHL shutout four days after that with 23 saves against the Florida Panthers. That season he started 50 of the 53 games he played. He proved himself, earning the nickname King Henrik, by setting the franchise record of most wins by a rookie, with a record of 30-12-9. He also finished 4th in the league with a .922 SV% (1,369 saves) and fifth with a 2.24 GAA.

Twelve years later, the Rangers signed Georgiev as a free agent following his twenty-seven games played for TPS of Liiga in Finland. In Finland, he had a record of 13-8-4, led Liiga in goals-against average with a 1.70 GAA, and was fifth in the league with a .923 SV%.

Georgiev made the jump to North American for the 2017-18 season goaltending, when he played in the AHL for the Hartford Wolfpack. Georgiev went 14-3-7 with a 2.98 GAA and a .909 SV%. He was called up by the Rangers on February 10, 2018, when back-up goalie Ondrej Pavelec was injured. At the time, Lundqvist had also given up 18 goals on 128 shots during a four-game losing streak.

On February 22, 2018, at 21 years-old, Georgiev made his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens. Although he made 38 saves and only allowed two goals in, his first start resulted in a 3-1 loss which some accredit to sloppy defensive plays made by Brady Skjei and former Blueshirt Robert O’Gara. Nine days later, he had 35 saves in a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Out of the 10 games he played, he had 9 starts, finishing his first NHL experience with a record of 4-4-1, a 3.15 GAA, a 2.05 GSAA, a 1.27 goals saved above expected (GSAx), and a .918 SV%. Unlike Lundqvist, Georgie did not have a shutout as a rookie but has had 4 over the course of the last season and a half.

Last but definitely not least, we have Shesterkin. He started playing in the KHL for the minor league team, the Moscow Spartak, at age 16. Shesterkin was ranked the number five goalie entering the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He was selected by the Rangers in the 4th round as the 118th overall pick. Between 2014 and 2015, he backstopped for St. Petersburg SKA, where he finished as the KHL’s all-time leader in career goals-against average with a 1.68GAA and second in the league with a .935 SV%.

On May 3, 2019, Shesterkin signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Rangers. He made a preseason debut against the Philadelphia Flyers before being assigned to the Hartford Wolfpack. In recognition of his success in Hartford, his record being 15-4-3, Igor was named AHL All-Star for his exceptional rookie season in a North American league. He made 29 saves in his NHL debut on January 7 of this year in a 5-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche. He became the seventh goaltender in Rangers history to earn a win in each of his first two NHL appearances. So far, the 24 year-old has proven to be a key piece of the Blueshirts’ future. As of now, his record is 4-1-0, with 127 saves equating to a .922 SV%, a 2.61 GAA in only five starts, and a 0.1 GSAx. Of course more time in the net will continue to improve his numbers.

Lundqvist, Georgiev, and Shesterkin unintentionally created buzz about themselves prior to their NHL debuts. Each player gained professional experience in different European leagues and were on top of their game. They were all around the same age during their rookie seasons and all trying to prove themselves to the New York fans.

With the triad of goalies seeming to not have an end in sight anytime soon, it is unclear how much playing time Quinn will be able to give this season’s rookie Shesterkin. The only certainty in the midst of trade rumors and the progression of young players moving forward, is that they have three great goalies to work with. So while playing time may be limited for each, the rotation could be a lot worse.

*This story was updated to correct the date of Henrik Lundqvist’s debut.