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Prospect Season Recap: Goaltenders

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

While the Rangers have weapons at all positions within its prospect pool, its depth in goaltending is its biggest area of strength.

College goaltenders Tyler Wall and Adam Huska both had successful freshman years at UMass-Lowell and the University of Connecticut, respectively, while free agent signee Chris Nell ended his collegiate career at Bowling Green and moved on to a short stint in Hartford to finish out the season.

Add in Igor Shesterkin in Russia and first-year pro Brandon Halverson, and it's easy to see why the Blueshirts are so pleased with where they are between the pipes.

"I think everyone is pretty excited about that position for us," said Chris Drury, the Rangers' assistant general manager and GM of the Wolf Pack.

Wall, taken in the sixth-round of last year's entry draft, went 26-10-1 with a 2.06 GAA and a .918 SV% for the River Hawks of the NCAA. His 26 victories were tied for the fourth-most in the nation and were the most by any first-year goaltender in school history.

The Leamington, Ontario-native allowed fewer than two goals in 23 of his 34 starts to help UMass capture the Hockey East Championship. 

Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel, said Wall was a bit of a surprise because of competition at the position for the River Hawks. But once he became the No. 1 netminder for the school, he took the ball and ran with it.

Huska, meanwhile, made the transition to the NCAA from the United States Hockey League and went 7-9-4 with a 2.87 GAA and a .916 SV% - ninth-best among freshmen - for the Huskies. The 2015 seventh-round pick made 30 or more saves in 13 of his 21 appearances, including at least 40 in three games.

The 6-foot-4 Huska represented Slovakia at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, appearing in three games and was named as one of the top three players on his team in the tournament.

Clark said he and his staff knew Huska would not get a majority of UConn's games this season, but that that they liked what they saw when he was given the opportunity.

"We couldn't be more proud of what those two young goalies have done," Clark said of Wall and Huska.

Nell wrapped up his career at Bowling Green after three seasons at the school, including a 17-14-2 record with a .916 SV% and four shutouts during his final campaign. The 22-year-old finished the season strong by going 7-1 with a 1.26 GAA and a .957 SV% with three shutouts over his final eight appearances.

The Green Bay native appeared in four games with the Wolf Pack to close out the year.

Halverson, the team's second-round pick in 2014, split his first season of pro hockey between Hartford and Greenville (ECHL). And while the numbers were not on his side, Halverson gained valuable experience as a 20-year-old rookie that should benefit him moving forward.

New Wolf Pack Head Coach Keith McCambridge said Halverson showed "real positive strides" in his stints with the club last season.

Shesterkin put up remarkable numbers for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League, going 27-4-6 and finished third in save percentage (.937), fourth in goals against average (1.64) and second in shutouts with eight.

He turned in four wins in five postseason games to help SKA capture the KHL Championship.

"It's more the style," Clark said when asked what impresses him the most about Shesterkin, the team's fourth-round pick in 2014. "He's not as big as the other guys. Shesterkin's game is more in Henrik [Lundqvist's] style" in that he's good at anticipating where the shooter is going and having the quickness to get into position. 

"This guy," Clark added, "his numbers were just scary."

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