As the days of the coronavirus pandemic stretch into weeks and the NHL season remains on lockdown, Islanders fans are naturally beginning to get more and more curious as to what will happen to their Isles should a season resume or what the future holds for the team in 2020-21.
The NHL Draft, awards shows and the remainder of the season let alone any playoffs are on indefinite hold; in reality, people affiliated with hockey from NHL officials on down to the average fan have no idea what to expect next.
The only piece of the puzzle that we can analyze at this point is where and when the next crop of Islanders prospects will show up to help the Isles with a playoff run and possibly a shot at another Stanley Cup. One of the most intriguing prospects in the Islanders organization is goalie Ilya Sorokin.
For those of you who may have never heard of Sorokin’s name before, get used to hearing it and his affiliation with the Islanders.
Ilya Sorokin is a 24-year-old Russian goalie and one of the top netminders in the Kontinental Hockey League, which is considered by many hockey pundits to be the best European hockey league.
Sorokin started his professional career with Metallurg Novokuznetsk during the 2012-2013 season and in 2017 moved over in a three year deal with top KHL flight CSKA Moscow.
Sorokin is a 6’2″, 176 lb. prototypical goalie and has throughout his KHL career maintained one of the most dominant defenses between the pipes of any goalie in that league. During the 2019-20 season (which has been officially canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic) Sorokin posted great numbers during 40 games with nine shutouts, a 1.50 GAA, 848 saves and a save percentage of .935 and he led CSKA Moscow to the Gagarin Cup last season ( top KHL trophy.)
These highlights set Sorokin into a level of elite goalie prospects in the NHL and mean that he is ready to make the logical next step in his hockey career by moving to North America.
The next question remains: when will Ilya Sorokin sign an NHL contract? Sorokin was originally drafted by the Islanders in the third round (78th overall) in the 2014 draft but elected to remain in the KHL. The Islanders still have contract rights with Sorokin and his current contract with CSKA Moscow ends on April 30th.
The Hockey News currently ranks Sorokin as the #22 overall prospect in the NHL and the top prospect for the Islanders organization. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello has already stated that he expects Sorokin to sign a formal NHL contract with the Islanders in the very near future; however, Sorokin is only eligible at this point to sign an Entry Level Contract (ELC) which can only be signed for the 2020-21 season, meaning he is a project for the future of the Isles.
Ilya Sorokin brings not only European playing experience with him but another tangible asset: his young age. Both current Islanders goalies Thomas Greiss and starter Semyon Varlamov are both 34 and 31, respectively and Sorokin brings both experience and a youth movement to the Islanders bench. In all reality, Sorokin will need to spend time in Bridgeport with the AHL to become more used to the North American game and to hone his netminding skills under the Islanders tutelage.
Sorokin will also need to be mentored by Varlamov in preparation for his move to the NHL full-time.
The Islanders have been patient in bringing out the welcome mat for Ilya Sorokin and the Isles may soon find that their patience will soon pay dividends through the “Sorokin factor.”
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