Since Henrik Lundqvist, known as King Henrik, had his jersey retired a few days ago, another king has had to enter the crease for the Blue Shirts.
Luckily for the Rangers they found their new king.
Igor Shesterkin has become the saving grace of the New York Rangers this season. With him in net, the Rangers are currently sitting at fifth in the league standings and are the second best team in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have placed a lot of trust in him, especially with his progress and development. From being drafted 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft, he is now blossoming into a possible Vezina winning goaltender.
Igor has a ton of great qualities that define his truly elite status. His glove hand is capable of game-changing saves, while possessing the ability to find the puck in difficult situations and high amounts of traffic. This sets him apart from a lot of keepers in the league. His athleticism is as good as it gets for a goalkeeper, especially down low when he’s in the butterfly. The only real weakness is his decision making in the crease especially in high pressure situations. Still needs to refine his game a bit, in this area, as he remains somewhat raw in the crease. But for a goalie who has played less than 100 games in the NHL, he is already a special talent. Igor Shesterkin has all the qualities necessary to be a top 10 goalie in the NHL.
Although he’s only played 76 games so far in his young career, the 26 year old has put up some impressive numbers. Taking a look at his QS% (Quality Start Percentage) he has already put up elite numbers. For context, Quality starts are any Starts with SV% greater than the league average SV% for the year. So at least maintaining a .885 SV% on nights with 20 or fewer shots against. In his career, he has averaged a Quality Start Percentage of 71.8%. This season alone with a 78.6% for QS%, he sits atop the rankings for any goaltender with 20+ games started.
Among goaltenders with 20+ games played, Shesterkin owns the highest save percentage at .937% and sits only behind Frederik Andersen (2.01) for the best Goals Against Average (2.10). His impact this season has been immeasurable for the Rangers. The Rangers have been one of the weirder teams analytically this season. On paper, they’re roster is solid, especially headlined by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. But that’s the thing, without them running at 100%, the Rangers struggle immensely on the offensive end.
Yes, they rank Top 15 in the league in Finishing, a Top 10 Penalty Kill, and own a Top 10 powerplay, but they get destroyed everywhere else. The chart below shows they’re ranking in major statistical categories. Red is bad. The Rangers are terrible and generate offense at even strength and are expected to allow a lot of scoring on the defensive end of the ice.
But this is where Igor comes into play. To say he has stood on his head this season is an understatement. He is the sole reason the Rangers have won as many games as they have. In the 18 games Shesterkin has not played in, the Rangers have a record 8-8-2. From the goaltenders that played in those games they averaged .884 SV% and a 4.01 GAA. These numbers give only a portion of the impact Igor provides. The numbers speak for themselves, but if you want a visual aid to show you how dominant he is between the pipes just look at this graphic below.
No matter where the shots are coming from, Igor Shesterkin is a tank at stopping any shot opportunities. Shesterkin has always been known for his fast reaction times and his elite lateral quickness. He’s IQ is through the roof as he always seems to be able to read plays at a high level and be in position. The chart above explains his talent to a tee. From anywhere within 15 feet of the blue paint, Shesterkin has a -10% likelihood of a goal to be scored compared to the league average in scoring conversion. Pretty much anywhere else on the ice, besides some shots from the point, are expected to have a -6% chance of goal being scored. A whole lot of blue in this chart is great, especially for Shesterkin and the Rangers.
Luckily for the Blue Shirts, they’ll have another franchise goalie for a long time as he continues this elite play. He’s their M.V.P. and everything from his play to his stats prove that. In my honest opinion he is who I believe will win the Vezina. Shesterkin would be the first goalie in a long time since Henrik Lundqvist in 2011-2012 to win the Vezina. This would really be the changing of the guard to make Igor the next King of New York.