In signing all three prospects, Gorton guaranteed that next training camp will be exciting for the team and its fans. Both Kravtsov and Shesterkin made it official yesterday by putting their John Hancock’s on contracts. The KHL phase of their careers are over. Now comes the next step in the developmental process.
The Rangers selected Kravtsov ninth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. A strong showing in the Under 20 World Junior Championship for Russia saw the 19-year old forward shift to center the top line. He fared well by posting two goals and four assists in the tournament. He helped Russia take bronze.
Shesterkin is a few years older. Selected by the Rangers in the 2014 NHL Draft in the fourth round number 118, the 23-year old top goalie prospect starred for St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL. He’s put up astonishing numbers for one of Russia’s best clubs.
Between ’16-17 and ’18-19, Shesterkin has won a combined 71 games while posting 25 shutouts over those three seasons. This past year, he went 24-4-0 with a miniscule 1.11 GAA, .953 save percentage and 10 shutouts. He split time in the SKA net with Magnus Hellberg, who put up similar numbers on a talented team that featured Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev, Nail Yakupov and Anton Belov.
Considered the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist, Shesterkin will finally get a chance to show what he can do. It’ll be interesting to follow his progress. He will have some stiff competition this Fall with current backup Alexandar Georgiev turning in a good rookie season. Also 23, he went 14-13-4 with a 2.91 GAA, .914 save percentage and two shutouts.
If Shesterkin needs some seasoning, he can go to Hartford and develop. Something that should be a strong consideration given how well Georgiev performed. In a perfect world, you would have both young netminders on the NHL roster. But Lundqvist enters the second to last year on his contract. He’s 37 and will play for Sweden in the World Championships. That starts up in six days.
On Thursday, the Rangers reached agreement on a ELC with Fox. After acquiring him from the Hurricanes in exchange for a 2019 second round pick and a 2020 conditional third, Gorton got the 21-year old D prospect signed. Originally a Flames third round draft pick in 2016, he played the last three seasons for Harvard in the ECAC.
The Jericho, NY native grew up rooting for the Rangers as a kid. One of his father’s favorite players was Brian Leetch. In fact, his first Rangers jersey was a Leetch Number 2 as a birthday present. His family had season tickets. So, he’s quite familiar with recent team history that included a lot of success in the postseason.
Fox had a great junior year for the Crimson. The right defenseman paced Harvard with 48 points including 39 assists and a plus-23 rating in 33 games. His performance made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker that was won by current Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. If Fox can have a similar impact to how Makar has done in helping Colorado even their second round series with San Jose, there’ll be cause for excitement.
Of course, the first thing he’ll have to do is make the roster out of camp. Even though he’s not the biggest, the 5-10, 185 pound offensive defenseman is a superb skater with good instincts. If it works out well, he could find himself in the top six with power play time. But it might not be right away due to Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo, who’s a key restricted free agent this summer.
So too is Neal Pionk, who might be the odd man out. Even though he put up 26 points in his first full season, the 23-year old struggled defensively. He also is a Group II free agent. If you assume Shattenkirk and DeAngelo are on the top two pairs, that leaves one spot on the third pair for Pionk to compete with Fox for.
Don’t forget promising youngsters Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren. With K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist a year away, the Blueshirts’ back end will have a totally different look in the future.
Fox was added to the Team USA roster for the worlds. That will give him a chance to be teammates with current Rangers Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei. A unique opportunity. There’s definitely a reason to follow the tournament. Especially with young players like Fox part of it. It all starts on May 10.