Wherever you look, whatever league; this season Rangers’ goaltenders are putting up strong numbers. Led by Henrik Lundqvist’s strong start, the Rangers group of netminders are showing that, at the very least, the Rangers are among the best organisations in the entire NHL for goaltending depth. Let’s take a quick look at how Rangers goaltenders are getting on to begin the season;
Obviously, any conversation about goaltending begins and ends with Lundqvist. As he goes, so do the Rangers. Lundqvist is neck and neck with Carey Price for the best goaltender in the world tag and if the Rangers actually manage to play some consistent defense in front of their franchise goalie then this season could feature a second Vezina trophy for Lundqvist. Lundqvist may ‘only’ have a 3-2-1 record but his 2.16 GAA would be the third best mark of his career and his .931S% would represent a career high if he can maintain such a lofty figure all season.
Replacing Cam Talbot was never going to be easy for Antti Raanta but a shutout victory in your Rangers debut is one way of endearing yourself to the Rangers fanbase. His 19 game stretch (16-0-3) without losing a home game in regulation is borderline ridiculous. The Rangers managed to develop one backup (Talbot) into an NHL quality starter and there’s a legitimate chance they could do the same with Raanta. Success in the modern NHL often requires effective asset management and Raanta (26) could be the next example of the Rangers developing a young, cheap acquisition into something more significant.
With young prospect McKenzie Skapski on the shelf to begin the regular season the Rangers’ hopes in net at the AHL level lay with new acquisition Magnus Hellberg. Hellberg is another goalie with significant upside and he flashed his talent in the Nashville system before coming to New York (for a 6th round draft pick) this season. At 6’5 Hellberg is a big goalie and is off to a strong start for Hartford. With a 3-1 record, a .947 S%, a shutout and a 1.75GAA Hellberg couldn’t do much more for the ‘Pack. It’s a sensational start with a new team. At 24, Hellberg like Raanta (and Skapski at 21) also has time on his side to develop into an NHL quality goalie.
Thanks to Hellberg, the Rangers and Wolf Pack don’t need to rush Skapski back from his injury but when Skapski does return the Rangers organisation will boast a young tandem at the AHL level who both boast legitimate NHL potential. The young duo should be one of the strongest pairings in the AHL. Not too shabby.
Juniors and European prospects
Outside of the pro ranks the Rangers continue to have what appears to be an embarrassment of riches in goaltending potential. While it’s far too early to draw any conclusions on 2015 draft pick Adam Huska, he’s still made a solid start in the USHL with Green Bay but it’s Brandon Halverson and Igor Shesterkin that excite most.
Halverson is coming off a 40 win season a year ago but he’s struggled to start the new season with a .889 S% and a hugely bloated 4.19 GAA in five appearances. Halverson is likely to be the US WJC starting goaltender this year however so will get plenty of quality competition as he continues to develop for the Rangers.
Shesterkin may not be playing in the KHL just yet but he’s had a strong start this season. Sporting an 8-2 record, a miniscule 1.28GAA and a .952 S% (not to mention 3 shutouts) Shesterkin is dominating in the Russian VHL for SKA’s minor league affiliate. With no outright ‘number one’ goalie on SKA’s this season Shesterkin could force his way into some KHL game time in short order.
Lundqvist, Raanta, Hellberg, Shesterkin. Collectively the Rangers goaltenders are off to very strong starts this season. With Brandon Halverson likely to find his groove sooner rather than later and McKenzie Skapski due to return in the next few weeks, the Rangers boast depth that’s almost unparalleled. Could the Rangers have six NHL quality netminders on their hands? Not a crazy thought.