Igor Shesterkin during the game for

Russian Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin was nominated for the MVP and MVP of the NHL regular season. About how his career began – in the material of RBC

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Igor Shesterkin during a game for Spartak in 2014

(Photo: Global Look Press)

Could become a field

Shesterkin was born in the south-west of Moscow, not far from the Wings of the Soviets hockey school, where he went to practice at the age of six. He became a goalkeeper, but one day he decided to retrain and put on the uniform of a field player.

The change of role was not a fleeting thought – Shesterkin really stopped playing at the gate and trained as a field hockey player.

“Then I was just the only goalkeeper in the Wings, and I was so tired of all this! Imprinted in my head: I’m going out, and it’s so unusual – on game skates, in a game uniform, I’m throwing at the gate, ”- said he is in an interview with the official website of the KHL.

But in the end, coach Evgeny Poleev convinced Shesterkin to return to the goal.

At the age of 16, Shesterkin graduated from a hockey school. However, he could not develop further in his native club – back in 2011, due to financial problems, the Wings of the Soviets teams that played in the Higher (VHL – the second strongest division of domestic hockey) and Youth (MHL) leagues were disbanded.

However, according to the then existing rules, Shesterkin in any case had to enter the draft of the Continental Hockey League (KHL), where Spartak chose him in the second round under the 43rd number.

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Photo: Getty Images

First match in base

Shesterkin appeared at the base of Spartak at the end of the first season as part of the Red-Whites. But that debut cannot be considered full-fledged, since it fell not on the calendar match of the championship, but on the Nadezhda Cup tournament. This competition was organized by the KHL, but it was considered friendly, and the indicators obtained in it were not included in the overall statistics of the players. The meaning of the Hope Cup was simple – teams that did not make it to the playoffs should not finish the season as early as mid-February.

At the end of February 2013, in the 1/4 finals of the Nadezhda Cup, Spartak met with Dynamo Minsk. Having lost the first match 3:4, in the second match the Red-Whites conceded two goals in the middle of the opening twenty minutes. It was then that the head coach of the team, Fedor Kanareikin, replaced the experienced Slovak Jan Lashak with Shesterkin. The 17-year-old goalkeeper saved 18 shots out of 19, while Spartak lost 2:3 and soon finished playing in the tournament.

Photo: Global Look Press

Photo: Global Look Press

Goal and Cup

However, the main place of Shesterkin’s game continued to be the youth team of Spartak. In 2013, the Red-Whites reached the final of the MHL playoffs. However, after the first two rounds of the Kharlamov Cup, Shesterkin was forced to leave for the national team and returned to Spartak’s location only for the sixth game of the final.

In that match, Shesterkin’s game did not go well. In the third period he was replaced with the score 0:5. The coaching staff, headed by Vladimir Tyurikov, again put Shesterkin on the decisive game. But Spartak lost again, losing 2:3 in overtime, although in the last seconds of regular time it hit the post.

In the next season’s regular season, Shesterkin scored a goal. This happened on October 31, 2013 in a home game with the Austrian Red Bull (4:1).

In the spring, Spartak nevertheless became the champion. The final again consisted of seven matches, and before the last game with the Red Army, the Red-Whites lost their main goalkeeper. Shesterkin was disqualified for the decisive game due to some “indecent gesture”, which caused a huge scandal.

CSKA sent a group of players with KHL experience to the Red Army. And it seemed that Spartak had almost no chance. Nevertheless, it was the Red-Whites who won the seventh game against Alexander Trushkov – 3:2.

Main goalkeeper

That victory of Spartak was perceived as a miracle. It’s not about the weakness of the team of coaches Oleg Bratash, Tyurikov and Vadim Yepanchintsev. In the end, a year ago, she played in the final. It’s a complete lack of finance.

The main Spartak no longer existed at the time of the MHL playoffs. Back in December 2013, the Central Bank revoked the license from Investbank, the only sponsor of the club. Hockey players generally saw the last salary in the fall. Having spent the final match of the championship, the first team was disbanded and did not play the same “Hope” Cup.

The basis of Spartak went to away matches at the expense of loans that the club provided KHL secured the rights to the players. And the youth “Spartak” finished the championship at the expense of donations from individuals.

The players began to leave the adult Spartak back in January. In the middle of the month, the main goalkeeper of the team, Canadian Jeff Glass, left CSKA. Spartak coaches introduced more and more young people into the squad.

Shesterkin’s turn to take to the ice came on 20 January. In the third period of the away match with Ugra, with the score 3:4, he replaced Alexei Ivanov, who missed two goals in a row. It was on that day that Shesterkin made his full-fledged debut at the highest level. He did not concede goals, but the hosts scored one more time – into an empty net, defeating Spartak 5:3.

Shesterkin took part in all eight remaining matches of the championship. He spent six meetings in full. In one, he replaced the injured Ivanov. In another one, after five goals conceded, he was replaced by Trushkov.

Photo: Global Look Press

Photo: Global Look Press

“We are all proud of him”

Spartak was unable to repay loans and left the KHL. SKA paid off the debts of the “red-whites”, which in exchange received from the league the rights to the players of “Spartak”, including Shesterkin. In St. Petersburg, the goalkeeper spent five seasons, after which he went overseas.

This season for Shesterkin is the second in the status of the main goalkeeper of the Rangers. According to the results of the regular season, he became the best goaltender in the NHL in terms of the average number of missed goals (2.07) and the percentage of shots saved (93.5). The Russian was nominated for two awards at once – the Hart Trophy and the Vezina Trophy. These prizes are awarded at the end of the “regular season” to the most valuable player and goalkeeper.

Before Shesterkin, from among the Russians, Vezina was owned by Sergey Bobrovsky (2013, 2017) and Andrey Vasilevsky (2019). Hart was received by Sergey Fedorov (1994), Alexander Ovechkin (2008, 2009, 2013), Evgeni Malkin (2012) and Nikita Kucherov (2019). Of the domestic goalkeepers, only Bobrovsky (2017) was among the nominees.

“Obviously he had an outstanding season, it was nice to know that today he was one of the nominees for the Hart Trophy. He just needs to keep playing well and working hard. We are all proud of him and it is fully deserved.” declared Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant.

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