GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Alexandar Georgiev might be the quietest, most unassuming guy in the Rangers’ locker room, so sometimes it’s tough to tell when he’s excited. But after finding out on Friday that he officially had made the Rangers’ opening night roster, he was most definitely excited.
“Yeah, of course. Very excited,’’ he said. “It’s going to be a new experience, for sure, and something I’ve been looking forward to for the last 15 years.’’
Georgiev is 22 years old. But his parents have been prepping him to be an NHL player – not just a professional hockey player, but an NHL player – almost since he first started to play hockey in Moscow at age 5. His parents taught him if he worked hard, he could achieve his goals, and they supported his hockey aspirations in every way they could.
“They always got me as much ice time as possible,’’ he said. “I always had really good coaches, and everything. They helped me so, so much.’’
He admits now that probably when he was around 16 or 17, maybe he wasn’t thinking about the NHL during tough stretches, when things weren’t going well. Then, he said, he just wanted to play well enough to earn the next start. At 18, he went to Finland to play, because there was a goalie coach there he wanted to work with. He played for TPS, splitting time with the Under-20 team and the senior team for the next two years. Then, in his third year, 2016-17, he was playing full time for the senior team (where he posted a 1.70 goals-against average and .923 save percentage) and began talking to Nick Bobrov, the Rangers’ Director of European Scouting, who told him the Rangers were considering drafting him. They didn’t, but after the draft, they invited him to their Prospect Development Camp and he played well enough there that they signed him to a contract.
Georgiev spent most of last season in Hartford, but got called up to the Rangers in February, when backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec suffered a knee injury. He played 10 games and played well enough that management thought he might be good enough to serve as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup this season. The organization signed two veteran goalies, Marek Mazanek and Dustin Tokarski, to compete with Georgiev for the position, but Georgiev easily won the competition.
“Right now, he belongs here,’’ Gorton said Friday, when the Rangers announced their 23-man roster. “We’re going to watch his ice time, to make sure he’s getting games, but I think it was pretty clear for us during camp that he was our No. 2 guy.’’
Gorton spoke to Georgiev Friday and told him that the Rangers know he needs to play in games in order to continue to develop as a prospect. If Lundqvist is playing well, and playing a lot, Georgiev may have to go down to Hartford to get some playing time, he told him. Georgiev is totally OK with that, he said.
“I want to play a lot of games,’’ he said. “That’s the way to get better.’’
Notes & Quotes: Brett Howden changed his jersey number to No. 21. He wore 48 in camp. Filip Chytil will keep the No. 72. He said his father was born in 1972, so the number has meaning to him.