Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev’s Quick Rise

Goaltending hasn’t been as issue for the New York Rangers since Henrik Lundqvist became the full starter after the 2005-06 season. It seems as though goaltending will remain a strength on Broadway for the foreseeable future with rookie phenom Igor Shesterkin coming onto the scene. But, where does Alexandar Georgiev’s future stand?

After nearly being traded before the 2020 trade deadline, Georgiev remains a Ranger and will most likely be a backup to Shesterkin next season in the Big Apple. How has the young goaltender risen in the ranks since his New York arrival? Let’s dive into Georgiev’s career and evaluate his future with the Rangers.

Georgiev’s Arrival

Georgiev’s first audition came during the 2017-18 season. This Rangers team was known for not being too kind to goaltenders as the team’s overall defense could be described as dismal during Alain Vigneault’s final run as New York’s head coach. In goals against, the 2017-18 Rangers ranked 28th out of 31 teams.

New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares
New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev makes a save as Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares looks for a rebound (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Despite the weak defense surrounding Georgiev, he performed well enough during his first few appearances as a relatively unknown Ranger. Through his first 10 NHL games, the Bulgarian native went 4-4-1 and accumulated an impressive .918 save percentage. At age 21, Georgiev did just enough to get another chance on a rebuilding Rangers squad that needed to commence its search for Lundqvist’s eventual replacement.

A Second Season Audition

During the 2018-19 season, the Rangers were once again expected to be sellers at the trade deadline. And they were. Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes were both shipped out of New York and the rest of the organization continued to stockpile draft picks and prospects. This usually would spell more trouble for a team’s goaltending, but Georgiev held his own in Year 2 on Broadway.

Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev
New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) eyes the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) attempts to get his stick on the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/ Bill Kostroun)

With 30 starts in net, Georgiev started to show a decent amount of consistency for such a young and unproven player in the NHL. The 6-foot-1, 179-pound goaltender finished at 14-13-1 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average. These are very impressive statistics for a 22-year-old managing his way through a season where his team gave up 195 more shots in 2018-19 than the average team in the NHL.

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Despite giving up a higher-than-average number of shots during the season, the Rangers’ collective save percentage stayed pat at .904. The NHL league average save percentage in 2018-19? .905. The season was a year of growth for Georgiev and further strengthened the argument to retain him for longer.

Cementing Georgiev’s Roster Spot

Even though the 2019-20 season may not officially be completed after the outbreak of COVID-19 across the world, Georgiev should be fairly satisfied with how his season turned out. After the arrival of Artemi Panarin, the Rangers were expected to improve. Georgiev may not have improved his career statistics, but he certainly held his own throughout the season.

Alexandar Georgiev Brendan Lemieux Erik Brannstrom
New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev makes a save as left wing Brendan Lemieux attempts to block the shot. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

In 34 games played, Georgiev amassed a record of 17-14-2 for the Blueshirts. The net-minder so far has a .910 save percentage with a 3.04 goals-against average amidst the paused season. The most impressive part of this season for Georgiev was how he handled the emergence of Russian rookie phenom Igor Shesterkin and the possibility of being traded. Georgiev maintained his composure and poise in net despite facing competition and uncertainly in the future. Nevertheless, Georgiev has done enough this season to cement his role with the Rangers until his contract expires.

The Future

Larry Brooks examined the possibility of a dim future for Lundqvist’s career, which could finish with a buyout. (from ‘Henrik Lundqvist’s Rangers end is hard to digest,’ New York Post, 04/03/2020) If Lundqvist is released from his contract with the Rangers, that would leave Shesterkin and Georgiev as the presumed two-goalie tandem for the 2020-21 NHL season.

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And if that’s the case, fans and management alike should be content with this Russian and Bulgarian duo. Georgiev has proven in his short time with the Rangers that he can handle, at the very minimum, a backup’s workload. The goaltending future for New York is brighter than most teams and general manager Jeff Gorton should feel comfortable rolling with both Shesterkin and Georgiev as the next generation of Rangers jells into a Stanley Cup contender in the near future.