2. Igor Shesterkin
It feels odd to consider 25-year-old Igor Shesterkin a prospect, but he fits within the rules of this Top 8 Prospects series. The Russian goaltender has had hype for quite some time now, especially after TSN analyst Craig Button proclaimed that he was the top prospect in the entire NHL just over a year ago. It took quite a while for him to join the Rangers, as he was drafted in the Fourth-Round (No. 118 overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but the time has finally arrived and he looks more than ready to become an elite starting netminder.
Prior to heading to North America, Shesterkin got Rangers fans very excited for what the future held after posting an unfathomable 1.11 goals against average (GAA) along with a .953 save percentage (SV%) in 28 games. He then started the 2019-20 season out in Hartford and continued to post ridiculous numbers, as he had a 1.90 GAA and a .934 SV% in 25 games before earning a call up to the Rangers in January of 2020. Since then, he has played a combined 27 NHL games, and has been as advertised with a 2.43 GAA along with a .927 SV%. He has a great shot at not only winning the Calder Trophy this year, but a Vezina Trophy or two down the road.
Another thing that greatly helped speed up the New York Rangers rebuild was them winning the 2020 Draft Lottery in order to select First overall. While many were upset they were rewarded the pick considering they finished 18th in league standings last year, the Rangers organization and its fans certainly weren’t complaining. With the pick, they selected the extremely talented Alexis Lafreniere, who had been regarded as the consensus first overall selection for well over a year.
Prior to being drafted, Lafreniere had played three seasons in the QMJHL with Rimouski Oceanic, where he scored an incredible 114 goals and 297 points in 173 points. He has been considered by many to be a generational talent and, while he has struggled early on in his NHL career with one goal in 11 games, it is only a matter of time until he gets things going. Once that happens, the rest of the league better look out.
After all, Alexis Lafreniere is arguably the most naturally-gifted talent to come out of the Draft since the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid and, as we’ve seen with the likes of Jack Hughes, it can take some time for even the most elite of prospects to adapt to the NHL and find their feet. Considering that he also had to deal with an incredibly short Training Camp, expect Alexis Lafreniere to figure things out soon and help to spearhead a push for the Playoffs for the New York Rangers.