Remember when there was all round angst about the lack of talent behind Henrik Lundqvist? Well as has been discussed countless times this season, it couldn’t be any more different right now. It’s a fair assumption to suggest that the Rangers goaltending situation – from top to bottom in the organisation – has never been better, even for an organisation founded in 1926.
The Rangers come at you with a future Hall of fame, Vezina winning goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, have a young NHL starting calibre goalie to back him up and have another young prospect already making serious waves in the pro ranks. With that said, let’s forget about the big boys in New York for a moment and have a quick look over the prospects below the NHL level.
We all know what Skapski did in his two NHL appearances. Yes, it was the Buffalo Sabres (ECHL edition) but Skapski came in and went 2-0-0, with a shutout and sported a .978 save percentage. He got better as he got more exposure and at 20, has a ton of time on his side. At the AHL level Skapski continues to play well. In 28 games played he is 15-8-3 with a .914 save percentage and three shutouts for a pretty young but solid WolfPack. What is perhaps most exciting however is how Skapski has taken the quick success at the pro level in his stride.
When Skapski eventually got demoted back to the AHL (which he knew was coming) he didn’t allow there to be any let down emotionally or let his focus suffer and pitched a shutout in his first game back. The jury is still out on his long term upside (can he be a regular NHL starter?) as he still has a small body of work at the pro level to refer to but Skapski is an exciting and intriguing prospect for the Rangers.
Brandon Halverson’s statistics this season are absurd. Yes, he’s playing for a strong Greyhounds club in the OHL but any goalie that goes 40-5-2 with six shutouts over the course of a season is doing something right. Halverson also pitched a shutout for Team USA at the WJC earlier in the season so he’s winning games at different levels and stepping up every time he’s required.
With the Greyhounds two games up in their second round playoff matchup against Guelph Storm (the former home of Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan amongst others) the Greyhounds continue to win and Halverson continues to play well. Halverson is fourth in playoff leaders in GAA with 2.25, first in wins with six, but his save percentage needs some work as he’s 8th with a .908 mark.
Halverson has a great skill set and is huge but he’s still a relative novice even at the OHL level. This is his first year (second in total) as a full time starter but Halverson has a lot of time on his side with regard to the pro game. With Lundqvist and Talbot in New York and Skapski ahead of him in the pros, Halverson who doesn’t turn 20 until March 2016, needs to focus on his game and continue to win. Nothing is better for a prospect than game time and success and Halverson has been having a lot of both this season.
Following European prospects can be an ordeal and Shesterkin is a great example. You’ll find statistics from six different teams for the Rangers Russian goalie this season. Shesterkin however, who turns 20 in December, has played well for every team he’s played for. His brief game time for SKA of the KHL was solid. 3 wins from 6 games, a 2.33 GAA and a .917 save percentage for a teenager in the KHL are impressive numbers, while his WJC experience was excellent boasting 3 wins, a shutout and a .938 save percentage for the tournament.
Overall, Shesterkin is averaging a .940 save percentage for his season, even if taking an average over six different team numbers is a crude and deceptive way of looking at it. Shesterkin appears to be at the back of the queue in regard to the Rangers goaltending pipeline right now, but that’s testament to how deep that pipeline is. The Russian’s priority next season should be to get more game time in the KHL and face better quality shooters on a regular basis as well as to continue to win games regardless of what level he’s playing at.
With Cam Talbot an ex-Ranger sooner rather than later (if not this summer, then surely the one after) there will be spots in the Rangers organisation to be fought for. The Rangers right now have a strong level of competition in goal below the NHL level and have three impressive young goaltenders vying for a place in New York for the mid to long term. Goaltending prospects are always the trickiest to project and usually take the longest to ‘arrive’ but right now, the Rangers will be thrilled with the situation they’re watching play out.
Everyone connected to the Rangers will be enjoying watching a (future) Hall of fame goaltender strut his stuff in New York and hope that continues for a good few years to come but no one needs to worry about who’s next to the crease. It appears there’s plenty more to come from the Rangers goaltending prospects.